British lawmakers Wednesday denied Prime Minister Boris Johnson's call for a general election on October 15. They also approved a bill that could prevent Johnson from withdrawing the country from the European Union (EU) next month.
Britain’s House of Commons voted 329 to 300 to support the bill Wednesday. It now goes to parliament’s upper house, the House of Lords, for consideration.
Both votes were a major defeat for the prime minister.
Johnson says his country must leave the EU on October 31, with or without an agreement between the two sides.
His promise to withdraw from the 28-member organization has Britain’s parliament in an uproar. Many fear leaving the EU without a deal in place could create severe economic problems. The dispute is the worst political turmoil since Britain voted in 2016 to leave the European Union. Politicians and the media have been using the name Brexit for the proposed withdrawal.
The Labour Party and some rebel members of Johnson’s own Conservative Party joined Wednesday to delay Brexit.
“To deliver Brexit like this is to create a poison pill which for 40 years will divide this country straight down the middle,” former Conservative Party leadership candidate Rory Stewart told the BBC. “If you are going to deliver Brexit at all, try to do it legally, constitutionally and with consent.”
On Wednesday, Johnson said the possible new law would destroy “any chance” his government would successfully negotiate a new deal with the EU by October 31.
However, the EU says Johnson’s government has not given them any real new ideas about an agreement.
The British Parliament rejected the deal former Prime Minister Teresa May reached with the EU, forcing her to resign in June.
It is unclear whether Johnson will have the votes to call an election later, after the bill is approved by the House of Lords. An election vote needs the approval of two-thirds of the 650 House of Commons lawmakers.
The Labour Party had said it would not agree to an election until a law is in place to stop a no-deal Brexit. It also said it does not trust Johnson to deliver an election before the Brexit date.
Johnson needs the support of a few Labour members to get enough votes to hold an election because some members of his own party have turned against him.
The Labour Party’s spokesman on Brexit issues, Keir Starmer, said Johnson had violated the trust of the House of Commons with his decision to suspend Parliament for several weeks in September and October before the Brexit deadline. Many critics have called this move anti-democractic.
Tuesday, Johnson lost his first vote in Parliament since becoming Prime Minister in July.
Against his wishes, lawmakers passed a motion that would permit them to push for the law that banned a no-deal Brexit.
Johnson’s government lost its majority when one Conservative lawmaker joined the Labour party and more than 20 other Conservatives voted with Labour.
Johnson answered that by expelling them from the Conservative Party, leaving them as independent lawmakers. Among those removed were Stewart; Nicholas Soames, the grandson of Winston Churchill; and Kenneth Clarke, the longest-serving member of the House of Commons.
Johnson received some help on Wednesday when a Scottish court refused to stop his decision to suspend Parliament. A Scottish judge ruled that it was a decision for lawmakers and not for the courts.
Most experts believe a general election must take place in the near future to find a path out of the political turmoil.
I’m Anne Ball.
The Associated Press reported this story. Susan Shand adapted it for VOA Learning English. George Grow was the editor.
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Words in this Story
uproar – n. a situation in which many people are upset, angry, or disturbed by something
turmoil – n. a state of confusion or disorder
pill – n. a small, rounded object that you swallow and that contains medicine, vitamins
consent – n. agreement
motion – n. a measure put forward in a decision-making body such as a committee or a parliament