British government, Boris Johnson lose key vote on Brexit timetable

LONDON — 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.

British lawmakers  approved Johnson’s Brexit deal in principle earlier Tuesday, sending it on for further scrutiny and possible amendments, before the fast-track proposal was shot down.

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.

Following Tuesday’s most recent vote, it will be almost impossible for Britain to leave the EU at the end of the month — something Johnson has long promised will happen.

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