British parliamentarians on Tuesday approved Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s plan to hold a snap general election on December 12 in a bid to break the Brexit impasse, AFP reported. This will be Britain’s third election in four years as well as the first December poll since 1923.
The legislation was passed by a margin of 438-20 in the House of Commons, and will now be sent to the Upper House, where lawmakers will hold a debate. But this is not expected to change the outcome. Once it is passed by the House of Lords, five weeks of campaigning will begin. The election is set to become a proxy referendum on Britain’s exit from the European Union.
Though the elections are considered a gamble for Johnson, he had no other option as his Brexit terms were rejected by MPs. Since no party has a majority in the UK Parliament, MPs have not been able to finalise the terms for Brexit.
Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn said the vote will be “a once-in-a-generation chance to transform our country” soon after the dates were finalised. “We will now launch the most ambitious and radical campaign for real change that our country has ever seen,” he said, according to Bloomberg. “This is our chance to build a country for the many not the few and fit for the next generation.”
Ahead of the vote, Corbyn had said that he would support Johnson’s plan for an early general election. “I have consistently said that we are ready for an election and our support is subject to a ‘no deal’ Brexit being off the table,” Corbyn had said.
The European Council on Monday agreed to extend the exit of the UK from the bloc till January 31. This decision meant that “for the next three months, our condition of taking ‘no deal’ off the table has now been met”, Corbyn said. “We will now launch the most ambitious and radical campaign for real change our country has ever seen,” he had said.
European Council President Donald Tusk said on Monday that the European Union would allow for “flextension” – meaning Brexit could take place before the deadline if the British Parliament approved a deal. “The decision is expected to be formalised through a written procedure,” Tusk tweeted. Now that MPs have voted to allow an early election in December, Brexit could take place sooner than January 31.
Britain and the European Union signed a new Brexit deal on October 17. On October 23, Johnson received a setback after the Parliament approved his Brexit withdrawal plan in principle, and, minutes later, rejected his second bill that would have fast-tracked the necessary legislation in time for the October 31 deadline. Following this, Donald Tusk had recommended that the leaders of the remaining 27 member states approve the delay.