British Prime Minister Boris Johnson could pivot towards a general election as the EU mulls granting a Brexit deadline extension on Wednesday, after a fresh twist to the divorce saga cast doubt over his hopes of leaving on October 31.
In tense parliamentary votes on Tuesday, Johnson won initial backing for the divorce deal he agreed with the EU — but MPs then rejected his timetable to rush it through parliament in a matter of days.
Following that setback, Johnson said he would halt the ratification process while European Union leaders consult on a delay — which MPs had forced him to ask for on Saturday by law.
European Council President Donald Tusk has recommended that EU’s 27 other member states grant the extension as requested, which would be until January 31, 2020 unless the deal is ratified before then.
As it stands, without that unanimous agreement, Britain is due to crash out of the EU in eight days’ time.
Though MPs voted positively on a EU divorce proposal for the first time in the tortuous three-year saga, Johnson runs a minority Conservative government and has had enough of opposition MPs blocking Brexit.
He told MPs before Tuesday’s votes that if parliament decided to “delay everything until January or possibly longer, in no circumstances can the government continue with this.
“We will have to go forward to a general election. I will argue at that election: let’s get Brexit done.”
A three-month delay would give time to hold a general election before the New Year — though it would require the support of two-thirds of MPs.
The Labour main opposition has spurned two previous chances to face an election.