Britain is now closer to a general election than Brexit

Lianna Brinded
Head of Yahoo Finance UK
Anti-Brexit protesters demonstrate outside the Houses of Parliament in London, Britain, October 21, 2019. REUTERS/Hannah McKay

Britain is now closer to another general election than leaving the European Union, which was most recently scheduled for 31 October this year.

Late on Tuesday, Members of Parliament (MP) approved prime minister Boris Johnson’s Brexit bill by 329 votes to 299. However, just minutes later, Johnson’s push to fast-track a timetable for the bill — completing it within three days — was defeated by a majority of 14.

Johnson decided to “pause” his legislation and is now pushing for a general election, which would mark the third one in under five years if it went ahead by the end of the year. He emphasised that if the EU proposed to delay Brexit from the Halloween deadline, which is what was proposed by MPs, then he will push for another election as soon as possible.

If an extension of three months was granted and a general election triggered, then the UK would be closer to another vote than leaving the EU.

The 27-nation bloc is currently mulling over whether to grant the UK a Brexit extension, which would be the second one in under a year. Britain was originally meant to leave in March.

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An extension is not intended to allow Johnson to renegotiate but to allow lawmakers to vote through legislation of the Brexit bill in time for a deadline — therefore avoiding a hard Brexit.

Hardline Brexiteer Johnson doesn’t want a delay to Britain leaving the EU. However, at the weekend, MPs voted 322 to 306 to back a motion designed to rule out a no-deal exit.

That vote was tabled by independent MP Sir Oliver Letwin, which "withholds approval” for Johnson's Brexit deal until legislation implementing it has been passed.

Johnson was then forced by law to go to the EU and ask for an extension beyond the 31 October deadline.

At the time, he said he will press on "undaunted" with his Brexit strategy. But then caused greater ructions among parliament after he sent three letters to the EU:

  • An unsigned photocopy of the request for an extension as outlined by the Benn Act

  • An explanatory note from the UK’s ambassador to the EU

  • A personal, signed letter from Johnson on why he doesn’t want a delay (which is in line with what he has repeatedly said since he became prime minister. He has even said, he would rather be “dead in a ditch” than delay Brexit).

The Benn Act, passed in September, required the prime minster to request an extension from the EU if an approved deal could not be reached by 19 October. If the EU accepts the request the new date for Brexit would be 31 January 2020.

The pound against the US dollar (GBPUSD=X) remained dampened early Wednesday and still in negative territory since Monday afternoon.

Chart: Yahoo Finance