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British government loses key vote on Brexit timetable

Brexit debate alters U.K.'s political landscape

London — British lawmakers have rejected the government's attempt to pass its Brexit bill within days. Legislators voted 322-308 Tuesday against a timetable that gave the House of Commons just three days to debate the Withdrawal Agreement Bill. 

The vote likely makes it impossible for Prime Minister Boris Johnson to fulfill his vow to take Britain out of the European Union on the scheduled date of October 31.

The outcome means lawmakers want more time to scrutinize the complex legislation, and it throws Johnson's exit timetable into chaos. 

Johnson said he will now "pause" the government's planned Brexit legislation, and told Parliament the government will accelerate plans for a "no-deal" Brexit in light of the defeat.

Johnson rebuked Parliament for "voting to delay" Brexit once again. The national referendum approving the U.K.'s departure from the European Union was held in 2016. It is supposed to happen by October 31.

The prime minister said he will consult with EU leaders and urged the EU to "make up its mind" about Britain's request for a possible delay of Brexit. Johnson had already asked the European Union for an extension to the October 31 deadline in a letter sent over the weekend, though the bloc has not yet responded.  

Withdrawal Agreement Bill

Bills to turn European treaties into domestic law often take several weeks to get through Parliament, sometimes longer. Lawmakers saw the text of Johnson's legislation, called the Withdrawal Agreement Bill (WAB), for the first time on Monday evening. Johnson was asking for them to take no longer than three days to pass that bill into law.

Leader of the opposition Labour party Jeremy Corbyn called the attempt to speed up the passage of the WAB "an abuse of Parliament and a disgraceful attempt to dodge accountability, scrutiny and any kind of proper debate."

Brexit debate alters U.K.'s political landscape


Tuesday's vote came after a failed attempt to get Johnson's Brexit deal passed in a special session of Parliament on Saturday. Johnson had been seeking Parliamentary approval for his agreement with the EU in a so-called "meaningful vote," which was part of what was required for the U.K. to leave the EU and would have allowed lawmakers to agree or disagree with the terms of his negotiated deal.

However, the Prime Minister canceled Saturday's scheduled vote when an amendment was passed. The amendment withheld Parliamentary approval until the legislation associated with the deal became domestic U.K. law. Lawmakers behind that amendment feared that if the legislation took too long to make its way through Parliament, the U.K. could accidentally crash out of the EU on October 31 "on no-deal terms." 

Johnson's attempt to hold another "meaningful vote" on Monday was denied by the Speaker of the House of Commons, John Bercow, who said he had his chance over the weekend.

Haley Ott contributed to this report.

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