The vote on the Brexit deal has been postponed as the UK Parliament effectively forced PM Boris Johnson to request yet another extension from the EU. Johnson is expected to write to the EU's Donald Tusk within hours.
British lawmakers dealt a major blow to Prime Minister Boris Johnson's last-minute Brexit deal on Saturday by approving an amendment that delays Brexit until legislation related to the country's European Union withdrawal is passed.
Lawmakers decided by 322 to 306 votes to support the measure tabled by longstanding MP and former Cabinet minister Oliver Letwin.
The amendment postpones a decision on whether to back Johnson's revised Brexit deal and effectively forces him to request a third extension to the country's departure from the EU to stop Britain from crashing out of the bloc on October 31 without a deal.
Boris reportedly asks for delay after all
The decision is a huge setback to Johnson, who defiantly told MPs immediately after the vote that he was "not daunted or dismayed" and believed he could still command "overwhelming" support for the new EU divorce plan finalized in Brussels on Thursday.
He said the government would introduce the legislation required by the amendment next week.
I will "not negotiate a delay with the EU, and neither does the law compel me to do so," Johnson added.
However, an EU source later told reporters that Johnson talked to European Council President Donald Tusk and told him he would ask for a Brexit delay.
"Tusk will on that basis start consulting EU leaders on how to react," said the EU official cited by the DPA and Reuters. "This may take a few days."
Last month, MPs approved legislation that explicitly forces Johnson to send the delay letter to the EU if his Brexit deal is not approved by Saturday.
Contempt of court?
If he does not write the letter, Johnson can expect to find himself in contempt of court. A government lawyer earlier told a Scottish court that Johnson would comply with the law.
A spokesperson for the European Commission, meanwhile, responded on Twitter to Parliament's earlier decision.
The commission "takes note of the vote in the House of Commons today on the so-called Letwin Amendment meaning that the Withdrawal Agreement itself was not put to vote today," spokeswoman Mina Andreeva wrote.
"It will be for the UK government to inform us about the next steps as soon as possible."
Brexit drama persists
Johnson struck a revised divorce deal with Brussels this week, nearly 3 1/2 years after Britain voted 52%-48% to leave the European project.
His predecessor, Theresa May, failed on three occasions to get her deal passed by Parliament.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said the new Brexit deal risks jobs, workers' rights and the environment
Lawmakers had been called to work for the first time on a Saturday since the 1982 Falklands War to debate and approve Johnson's deal. That vote, which most analysts said would be tight, will now likely take place on Monday.
Some MPs speculated Johnson's deal may just be 6-8 MPs short of approval.
As Parliament delayed approval of the new deal, tens of thousands of people rallied in central London calling for a 'final say' vote on whether to quit the bloc.
mm,dj/jlw (Reuters, AP, AFP, dpa)