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It’s been 1,216 days since the original Brexit vote, and now the U.K. could be set to have another.
In Boris Johnson’s desperation to leave the EU by the Halloween deadline set by Brussels, he tried once again to ram Brexit legislation through Parliament Tuesday night. The fast-track effort failed by 14 votes, and now the government is calling for a snap election to resolve the impasse.
Problem is, there’s no guarantee it’ll make anything better.
Lawmakers, just minutes before, had voted Johnson's withdrawal agreement bill through its second reading, but then turned against the prime minister because they felt that trying to read, analyze, debate and approve the 435-page plan in just a few days was impossible.
After the vote on Tuesday night, Johnson said he would now “pause” the withdrawal bill and seek an election instead, but unfortunately for Johnson, he can't force a vote unilaterally.
In order for a snap election to be called, Johnson would need the support of two-thirds of the Parliament. Similar calls by Johnson failed twice last month, but on Tuesday, the main opposition party indicated that if the EU granted an extension, it would back calls for an election, as the threat of a no-deal Brexit would be off the table.
On Saturday Johnson was forced by law to send a letter to the EU asking for an extension until January 31, though he didn’t sign the letter and sent a second note to Brussels outlining his reasons why he didn’t think an extension was necessary.
Europe has indicated it will grant an extension but has yet to say how long it will be. A decision is expected by the end of the week.
Johnson was met Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn on Wednesday morning to discuss the next steps in the Brexit process, but the meeting ended without any agreement.
But, the upshot of Tuesday’s vote in parliament is that the future of Brexit is now effectively out of the prime minister’s hands.
Even if he is granted his wish for a snap election — likely to take place in early December — there’s no guarantee that he would be able to find the votes to command a majority in Parliament.
While Johnson and the Tory Party claim they would win seats from Labour, the consensus seems to be that they would also lose seats to the Liberal Democrats and in Scotland, where voters are demanding a second referendum.
The Tory government has also relied on the support of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) to prop up their minority government, but given the latest deal has widely angered the unionist community by placing a customs border in the Irish Sea, it is unclear if the Tories could rely on those votes again.
“My own guess is that a general election will be a re-run of what we have today — another period of uncertainty,” former Conservative deputy prime minister Michael Heseltine, told Sky News on Wednesday morning.
Cover: Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks to lawmakers during Prime Minister's Questions in the House of Commons, London, Wednesday Oct. 23, 2019. The government is now waiting for the EU's response to its request for a three-month extension to the Brexit deadline, as Prime Minister Johnson appeared to be pushing Wednesday for an early General Election. (House of Commons via AP)