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Boris Johnson’s Election Bid Casts Doubt Over EU Brexit Delay

October 25, 2019by Jessica Shankleman
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson leaves after a cabinet meeting at Downing Street on September 4, 2019 in London, England. (Leon Neal/Getty Images/TNS)

LONDON — Boris Johnson’s efforts to break three years of gridlock in the U.K. Parliament with another election were thrown into doubt, after his main opponent demanded he rule out a no-deal Brexit first.

Labour Party Leader Jeremy Corbyn said Thursday that his decision on backing Johnson’s bid for an election depends on for how long the EU will extend Brexit.

The prime minister needs Corbyn’s support for an early election in order to get the two-thirds majority in Parliament required for it to take place.

The latest standoff in Westminster complicated the calculus for EU diplomats meeting in Brussels on Friday morning. They were scheduled to decide the length of a third Brexit extension, but now don’t want to be seen taking sides in a British political matter, according to people familiar with discussions.

With just six days before the U.K. is scheduled to leave the bloc and no deal yet agreed, there’s a slim chance Johnson could still push through his legislation again after winning broad support in Parliament for his plans Tuesday night.

Johnson is concerned that without an election, scrutiny of his bill could drag out to fill a full three-month Brexit extension, becoming unacceptable to him if opponents succeed in amending it. Since becoming prime minister three months ago, he’s twice failed to win the two-thirds majority needed in the Commons for an early national vote.

If MPs once again reject his plan, Johnson will ditch his Brexit bill and campaign relentlessly for an election, which he sees as the only way to break the impasse, according to a person familiar with his thinking.

But some MPs may question that threat, after Johnson backtracked on a similar pledge earlier this week. Johnson only put his legislation on hold after MPs rejected his accelerated timetable for debating it, even though hours before he’d threatened to pull the bill if they voted against him.

“It is our duty to end this nightmare and provide the country with a solution as soon as we reasonably can,” Johnson said in a letter to Corbyn, appealing for his MPs to back an election. “These repeated delays have been bad for the economy, bad for businesses, and bad for millions of people trying to plan their futures.”

In response, Corbyn said he’d wait and see what the EU offered in the form of an extension on Friday. That caused a Catch-22 situation in Brussels, where diplomats said they wanted more clarity from the U.K. before agreeing on any potential extension.

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Ian Wishart and Nikos Chrysoloras contributed to this report.

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©2019 Bloomberg News

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Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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