UK's Johnson asks for Brexit delay, but argues against it

Whippets wear clothing with the EU flag during anti-Brexit protests in London, Saturday, Oct. 19, 2019. Britain's Parliament is set to vote in a rare Saturday sitting on Prime Minister Boris Johnson's new deal with the European Union, a decisive moment in the prolonged bid to end the Brexit stalemate. Various scenarios may be put in motion by the vote. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)
Anti-Brexit remain in the European Union supporters gather after taking part in a "People's Vote" protest march calling for another referendum on Britain's EU membership, in Parliament Square in London, Saturday, Oct. 19, 2019. Britain's Parliament is set to vote in a rare Saturday sitting on Prime Minister Boris Johnson's new deal with the European Union, a decisive moment in the prolonged bid to end the Brexit stalemate. Various scenarios may be put in motion by the vote. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)
Anti-Brexit signs are left in a pile of earth after a protest gathering in London, Saturday, Oct. 19, 2019. In a major blow to British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, U.K. lawmakers voted Saturday to postpone a decision on whether to back his Brexit deal with the European Union, throwing a wrench into government plans to leave the bloc at the end of this month. (AP Photo/Alberto Pezzali)
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson leaves 10 Downing Street, to go to the Houses of Parliament in London, Saturday, Oct. 19, 2019. Britain's Parliament is set to vote in a rare Saturday sitting on Prime Minister Boris Johnson's new deal with the European Union, a decisive moment in the prolonged bid to end the Brexit stalemate. Various scenarios may be put in motion by the vote. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)
A woman wears the colors and stars of the EU flag as she and other anti-Brexit supporters march in London, Saturday, Oct. 19, 2019. In their first weekend session in 37 years, British lawmakers in Parliament debated whether to accept Prime Minister Boris Johnson's proposed new divorce deal with the European Union. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)
Anti-Brexit supporters march in London, Saturday, Oct. 19, 2019. Britain's Parliament voted delaying approval of Prime Minister Boris Johnson's new Brexit deal, but Johnson said there will be no new negotiations with the EU. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)
Union Jacks and EU flags fly over Britain's Parliament in London, Saturday, Oct. 19, 2019. In a major blow to British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, U.K. lawmakers voted Saturday to postpone a decision on whether to back his Brexit deal with the European Union, throwing a wrench into government plans to leave the bloc at the end of this month. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)
Anti-Brexit supporters cheer outside parliament in London, Saturday, Oct. 19, 2019. Britain's Parliament voted delaying approval of Prime Minister Boris Johnson's new Brexit deal, but Johnson said there will be no new negotiations with the EU. (AP Photo/Alberto Pezzali)
A heavy police presence escorts Leader of Britain's House of Commons Jacob Rees-Mogg from parliament in London, following a Brexit debate Saturday Oct. 19, 2019. Many thousands of protesters gathered in London to demonstrate on both sides of the Brexit argument. (Jacob King/PA via AP)
Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks to lawmakers inside the House of Commons to update details of his new Brexit deal with EU, in London Saturday Oct. 19, 2019. At a rare weekend sitting of Parliament, Johnson implored legislators to ratify the Brexit deal he struck this week with the other 27 EU leaders. Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, Stephen Barclay, left, and Business Secretary Andrea Leadsom, right. (Jessica Taylor/House of Commons via AP)
Whippets wear clothing with the EU flag during anti-Brexit protests in London, Saturday, Oct. 19, 2019. Britain's Parliament is set to vote in a rare Saturday sitting on Prime Minister Boris Johnson's new deal with the European Union, a decisive moment in the prolonged bid to end the Brexit stalemate. Various scenarios may be put in motion by the vote. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)
Anti-Brexit remain in the European Union supporters take part in a "People's Vote" protest march calling for another referendum on Britain's EU membership, in London, Saturday, Oct. 19, 2019. Britain's Parliament is set to vote in a rare Saturday sitting on Prime Minister Boris Johnson's new deal with the European Union, a decisive moment in the prolonged bid to end the Brexit stalemate. Various scenarios may be put in motion by the vote. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)
First morning light strikes the Houses of Parliament in London, Saturday, Oct. 19, 2019. Britain's Parliament is set to vote in a rare Saturday sitting on Prime Minister Boris Johnson's new deal with the European Union, a decisive moment in the prolonged bid to end the Brexit stalemate. Various scenarios may be put in motion by the vote. (AP Photo/Alberto Pezzali)
Anti-Brexit demonstrators carry placards and EU flags in London, Saturday, Oct. 19, 2019. In their first weekend session in 37 years, British lawmakers in Parliament debated whether to accept Prime Minister Boris Johnson's proposed new divorce deal with the European Union. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)

LONDON — Prime Minister Boris Johnson grudgingly asked the European Union late Saturday to delay Brexit after the British Parliament postponed a decision on whether to back his divorce deal. But the defiant Johnson also made clear that he personally opposed delaying the U.K.'s exit, scheduled for Oct. 31.

A law passed by Parliament last month set a late-night deadline for the government to send a letter asking the EU for a three-month postponement if lawmakers had not approved an agreement with the bloc by Saturday. An hour before the deadline, European Council President Donald Tusk tweeted: "The extension request has just arrived. I will now start consulting EU leaders on how to react."

Johnson made clear he was making the request under duress. The letter requesting an extension was not signed. It was accompanied by a second letter, signed by Johnson, arguing that delay would "damage the interests if the U.K. and our EU partners."

Earlier in the day, Johnson told lawmakers that "further delay would be bad for this country, bad for the European Union and bad for democracy."

French President Emmanuel Macron seemed to agree. Macron's office said he spoke to Johnson by phone and insisted on the need for "quick clarification of the British position on the accord." The president's office said Macron indicated to the British prime minister that "a delay would be in no one's interest."

At a rare weekend sitting of Parliament, lawmakers voted 322-306 to withhold their approval of the Brexit deal until legislation to implement it has been passed.

The vote sought to ensure that the U.K. cannot crash out of the EU without a deal on the scheduled departure date. Johnson, who struck the agreement with the EU earlier this week, said he was not "daunted or dismayed" by the result and would continue to do all he can to get Brexit done in less than two weeks.

Parliament's first weekend sitting since the Falklands War of 1982 had been dubbed "Super Saturday." It looked set to bring Britain's Brexit saga to a head , more than three years after the country's divisive decision to leave the EU.

But the government's hopes were derailed when House of Commons Speaker John Bercow said he would allow a vote on an amendment to put the vote on the deal off until another day.

The amendment makes support for the deal conditional on passage of the legislation to implement it, something that could take several days or weeks. It also gives lawmakers another chance to scrutinize — and possibly change— the Brexit departure terms while the legislation is in Parliament.

The government still hopes it can pass the needed legislation by the end of the month so the U.K. can leave on time.

The leader of the House of Commons, Jacob Rees-Mogg, said the government would hold a debate Monday on its Brexit-implementing legislation — effectively a second attempt to secure approval for the deal.

It's unclear whether that would be allowed under House of Commons rules against holding repeated votes on the same question. Bercow said he would make a ruling Monday.

The vote was welcomed by hundreds of thousands of anti-Brexit demonstrators who marched to Parliament Square, demanding a new referendum on whether Britain should leave the EU or remain. Protesters, many wearing blue berets emblazoned with yellow stars symbolizing the EU flag, poured out of subways and buses for the last-ditch effort.

"Another chance for sanity and perhaps rationality to take over, rather than emotion," filmmaker Jove Lorenty said as he stood outside Parliament. "Never give up until the fat lady sings. No one knows what will happen, but we have hope."

Johnson, who came to power in July vowing to get Brexit finished, called any delay to Britain's departure pointless, expensive and corrosive of public trust. And he warned that the bloc's approval could not be guaranteed.

"There is very little appetite among our friends in the EU for this business to be protracted by one extra day," Johnson said. "They have had three and a half years of this debate."

The EU was guarded in its response to Saturday's vote.

"It will be for the U.K. government to inform us about the next steps as soon as possible," EU Commission spokeswoman Mina Andreeva tweeted.

When push comes to shove, the EU seems likely to grant an extension if needed to avoid a disruptive no-deal Brexit.

Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said his country saw the vote as a delay, rather than a rejection of the Brexit deal. For EU leaders, avoiding a chaotic, no-deal Brexit should be the "top priority," he said in a tweet.

And the European Parliament's chief Brexit official, Guy Verhofstadt, noted that time was now tight to get the deal approved by the EU legislature before Oct. 31, meaning a short delay might be needed.

If Parliament approves the Withdrawal Agreement Bill in time, Britain could still leave by the end of October. The government plans to introduce the bill next week and could hold late-night sittings of Parliament in hope of getting it passed within days.

But Johnson must win over a fractious and divided Parliament, which three times rejected the Brexit plan negotiated by his predecessor Theresa May.

His hopes of getting the deal through Parliament were dealt a blow when his Northern Ireland ally, the Democratic Unionist Party, said it would not back him. The party says Johnson's Brexit package — which carves out special status for Northern Ireland to keep an open border with EU member Ireland — is bad for the region and weakens its bonds with the rest of the U.K.

To make up for the votes of 10 DUP lawmakers, Johnson has tried to persuade members of the left-of-center Labour Party to support the deal. Late Friday, the government promised to bolster protections for the environment and workers' rights to allay Labour fears that the Conservative government plans to slash those protections after Brexit.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn dismissed the prime minister's promises as inadequate.

"This deal is not good for jobs, damaging for industry and a threat to our environment and natural world," he said. "Supporting the government this afternoon would merely fire the starting pistol in a race to the bottom in regulations and standards."

___

Casert reported from Brussels. Associated Press writers Gregory Katz and Mike Corder in London and Elaine Ganley in Paris contributed to this story.

___

Follow AP's full coverage of Brexit and British politics at https://www.apnews.com/Brexit

People also read these

China launches second space station, Tiangong 2

Sep 15, 2016

China has launched its second space station in a sign of the growing sophistication of its...

Aid groups warn of crisis as Mongolia hit by...

Dec 21, 2016

Another unusually harsh winter in Mongolia that's decimating livestock and sending temperatures to...

China says some factories have violated anti-smog...

Jan 3, 2017

China's environmental ministry says an unspecified number of companies have violated measures meant...

Asian shares mixed as investors consider latest...

Jan 5, 2017

Asian stock indexes mixed as investors assess latest Fed meeting minutes; Japan shares slip as yen...

China exports shrink as Trump trade tensions loom

Jan 13, 2017

China's exports fell back into contraction again last month, signaling renewed weakness for the...

About Us

Frontal Report is an emerging leader in all forms of media. We aim to be the leading news brand for readers around the world.

Contact us: sales[at]frontalreport.com

Subscribe Now!