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Jill Lawless and Danica Kirka

Associated Press

LONDON (AP) — For a brief moment Tuesday, Brexit was within a British prime minister's grasp.

Boris Johnson won Parliament's backing for the substance of his exit deal but lost a key vote on its timing, a result that inches him closer to his goal of leading his country out of the European Union — but effectively guarantees it won't happen on the scheduled date of Oct. 31.

European Council President Donald Tusk tweeted that because of the vote he would recommend that the other 27 EU nations grant Britain a delay in its departure to avoid a chaotic no-deal exit in just nine days.

The good news for the prime minister was that lawmakers — for the first time since Britons chose in 2016 to leave the EU — voted in principle for a Brexit plan, backing by 329-299 a bill to implement the agreement Johnson struck with the EU last week.

But minutes later, legislators rejected his fast-track timetable to pass the bill, saying they needed more time to scrutinize it. The vote went 322-308 against the government.

Tuesday's votes plunge the tortuous Brexit process back into grimly familiar territory: acrimonious uncertainty.

Without speedy passage of the bill, Britain won't be able to make an orderly exit from the bloc on Oct. 31, the central vow of Johnson's three-month-old administration.

Looking on the bright side, Johnson hailed the fact that "for the first time in this long saga this House has actually accepted its responsibilities together, come together, and embraced a deal."

"One way or another we will leave the EU with this deal to which this House has just given its assent," he said — though he also said the government would "accelerate" preparations for a no-deal outcome because of the uncertainty.

Johnson had hoped to push the legislation through the House of Commons by Thursday. But he said after the defeat that he would "pause" the bill until the EU had decided whether to agree to delay Britain's departure.

On Tuesday night, Tusk tweeted that he would recommend that the bloc grant Britain's request for an extension to the Oct. 31 deadline. He did not say how long a delay he would recommend, although the U.K.'s request was to postpone exit until Jan. 31.

That request came grudgingly from Johnson last week to comply with a law passed by Parliament ordering the government to postpone Brexit rather than risk the economic damage that could come from a no-deal exit.

Any delay will still require the agreement of all of the other 27 EU member states, and they are deeply weary of the long-running Brexit saga. French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told French lawmakers Tuesday that he sees "no justification" at this stage for a further delay.

But they also want to avoid the economic pain on both sides of the Channel that would come from a chaotic British exit.

Earlier, Johnson had said he might call a vote on holding a snap general election if Parliament blocked his plans — in the hopes of breaking the political deadlock over Brexit that has dragged on as lawmakers have squabbled over the country's departure terms. But he's likely to wait to hear from the EU on the delay request before deciding whether to push for an election.

But before Tuesday's vote, he said: "I will in no way allow months more of this."

Last week Johnson struck a divorce deal with the other EU leaders, but on Saturday he failed to win Parliament's backing for it. His only remaining hope of leaving on time was to get lawmakers to pass the Brexit-implementing bill into law before the scheduled departure date, nine days away.

The Brexit deal sets out the terms of Britain's departure, including measures to maintain an open border between the U.K.'s Northern Ireland and EU member Ireland. It also enshrines the right of U.K. and EU citizens living in the other's territory to continue with their lives, and sets out the multibillion pound (dollar) payments Britain must make to meet its financial obligations to the EU.

But the deal does not cover the nitty gritty of future relations between the U.K. and the EU: Instead, it confirms a transition period lasting until at least the end of 2020 — and possibly 2022 — in which relations will remain frozen as they are now while a permanent new relationship is worked out.

If Britain leaves the EU without a deal, there will be no transition period, uncertainty for millions of citizens and a host of new tariffs, customs checks and other barriers to trade on Day 1. Most economists say that would send unemployment rising, the value of the pound plummeting and plunge the U.K. into recession.

Many lawmakers felt that three days was not nearly enough time for scrutiny of the 115-page bill. Major bills usually take weeks or months to pass through Parliament, giving time for line-by-line scrutiny by lawmakers.

Before Tuesday's votes, Green lawmaker Caroline Lucas tweeted that lawmakers "had more time to debate the Wild Animals in Circuses Act (affecting 19 animals) than they will to decide the future of 65 million people. It's hard to think of anything which better illustrates this Govt's contempt for people, Parliament & democracy."

After the votes, many lawmakers urged Johnson to push ahead with the bill after securing a delay to Brexit. Opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn encouraged the prime minister to "work with us all of use to agree a reasonable timetable" for its passage.

Leader of the House of Commons Jacob Rees-Mogg, an ardent Brexit supporter, acknowledged that the prospect of an Oct. 31 Brexit now seemed remote.

"Impossible is a very strong word, but it is very hard to see how it is possible," he said.


Associated Press writers Gregory Katz in London and Lorne Cook and Sam Petrequin in Brussels contributed to this report.


Follow AP's full coverage of Brexit and British politics at


Associated Press writers Gregory Katz in London and Lorne Cook in Brussels contributed to this report.


The Latest on Brexit (all times local):

8:05 p.m.

The European Commission says it has taken note of British lawmakers' votes on Brexit and awaits details from the U.K. government on how it intends to proceed.

Commission spokeswoman Mina Andreeva added in a Tweet that European Council president Donald Tusk is consulting with European leaders on Britain's request for a Brexit extension until Jan. 31 2020.

British lawmakers on Tuesday approved Prime Minister Boris Johnson's Brexit deal in principle.

But they rejected the government's fast-track attempt to pass the bill within days.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson says he will "pause" the government's planned Brexit legislation.


7:45 p.m.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson says he will "pause" the government's planned Brexit legislation after lawmakers voted to reject his fast-track timetable.

Johnson told Parliament on Tuesday that the government will accelerate plans for a "no-deal" Brexit in light of the defeat, which derailed his plans.

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 Oct. 31.

The prime minister says 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.

He did not reply to an offer from Labour opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn to allow the hefty Brexit bill to be debated at a slower pace than the government's fast-track plan.


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7:35 p.m.

British lawmakers have rejected the government's fast-track attempt to pass its Brexit bill within days.

Legislators voted 322-308 against a timetable that gave the House of Commons just three days to debate the European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill.

The vote likely makes it impossible for Johnson to fulfil his vow to take Britain out of the EU on the scheduled date of Oct. 31.

The outcome meant lawmakers want more time to scrutinize the complex legislation.

That throws Prime Minister Boris Johnson's exit timetable into chaos.

He now has two choices.

He could agree to give lawmakers more time, which would need a delay to Brexit of at least a few weeks.

Or, as he has threatened, he could pull the bill and try to get lawmakers to vote for a general election that could break the political impasse.

In both cases the EU must agree to delay Britain's departure.


7:20 p.m.

British lawmakers have approved Prime Minister Boris Johnson's Brexit deal in principle, but he still faces a battle to steer it through Parliament in time for the U.K. to leave the European Union on schedule on Oct. 31.

The House of Commons voted 329-299 to send the European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill on for further scrutiny and possible amendments.

The government wants the Commons to approve the bill by Thursday, sending it on to Parliament's upper chamber, the House of Lords. The aim is to make it law before Oct. 31 so that Britain can leave the EU on time.

But first lawmakers must approve the fast-tracked timetable. They are due to vote on that later Tuesday.

If they demand more time to scrutinize the bill, it will be almost impossible for Britain to leave the EU at the end of the month — something Johnson has long promised will happen.


5:30 p.m.

France's foreign minister says he sees "no justification" at this stage for a further delay to Britain's exit from the European Union, and is pushing for quick decisions from London on how it intends to proceed.

Jean-Yves Le Drian told French lawmakers Tuesday the British "must tell us today, as fast as possible, if it's yes or if it's no" — an apparent reference to the new Brexit deal between the EU and London struck last week.

He added that "it's important that this decision is announced today because if not there will be no implementation except a no-deal one, which is not the solution that we prefer."

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson was headed for a showdown Tuesday with lawmakers who want to put the brakes on his drive to push his EU divorce bill through the House of Commons in just three days and take Britain out of the EU by Oct. 31.


2:35 p.m.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson says that if lawmakers reject his accelerated three-day timetable for Brexit bill he will pull it and seek an election.

Speaking in the House of Commons on Tuesday, Johnson told lawmakers that if they rejected the timetable, "the bill will have to be pulled and we will have to go forward to a general election."

British lawmakers from across the political spectrum had been plotting Tuesday to put the brakes on Johnson's drive to push his European Union divorce bill through the House of Commons in just three days, potentially scuttling the government's hopes of delivering Brexit by Oct. 31.


11 a.m.

Slovenia's foreign minister says Brexit showed European Union's unity as it stood by a small member state, Ireland, but failed in the Balkans when it couldn't agree to open accession talks with North Macedonia and Albania.

Miro Cerar said in an interview with The Associated Press on Tuesday that "there are some positive effects on the part of the European Union regarding Brexit because we in a way upheld our unity during this process. We showed that we are able to stand behind a small state, Ireland, to protect its interests."

But Cerar warned that EU's weekend decision not to open membership negotiations with North Macedonia and Albania sends a negative signal to the volatile Western Balkans.

He said that "I believe that this postponement or no decision was indeed a historic mistake."

Slovenia became an EU member in 2004.


9 a.m.

European Council President Donald Tusk says European Union leaders "will decide in coming days" whether to grant Britain another extension to the deadline for leaving the bloc, but he says their decision depends on developments in London.

Tusk said Tuesday that the decision on prolonging Brexit for three months after Oct. 31 "will very much depend on what the British parliament decides or doesn't decide."

Britain faces another week of political gridlock after British lawmakers on Monday denied Prime Minister Boris Johnson a chance to hold a vote on the Brexit divorce bill agreed in Brussels last week.

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker lamented all the work spent on Brexit rather than on EU policy, calling it a "waste of time and waste of energy."


8:50 a.m.

British lawmakers from across the political spectrum are expected to challenge Prime Minister Boris Johnson's drive to push his European Union divorce bill through the House of Commons by Thursday, potentially scuttling plans to deliver Brexit by Oct. 31.

The bill faces two votes Tuesday, with lawmakers first being asked to approve it in principle, followed by a vote on the government's schedule for debate and possible amendments.

While many analysts expect the bill to be approved, lawmakers may reject the three-day timetable because of concerns it doesn't provide enough time for scrutiny.

Ken Clarke, a long-time lawmaker from Johnson's Conservative Party, says "unless you are prepared to contemplate more expansive debate, there is not the slightest possibility of considering the deal that has been obtained within the time available."


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