THE U.K. WILL HOLD A general election in December aimed at breaking the Brexit deadlock that has suspended the country in limbo since British voters chose to leave the European Union in 2016.
In a saga that has been dotted with moments that ultimately turn out to be false peaks, the election is likely to be the most consequential event yet. It is the ultimate gamble for all sides of the debate over the U.K.’s departure from the bloc and will effectively throw the Brexit question to the people once more. It will be held on Dec. 12.
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The election, which lawmakers approved Tuesday by a vote of 438-20 with nearly 200 lawmakers abstaining, comes after Prime Minister Boris Johnson failed to push his renegotiated Brexit deal through Parliament earlier this month. As a result, the EU agreed to extend the Brexit deadline to the end of January, the third such extension.
Johnson campaigned on delivering Brexit by Oct. 31 but suffered a series of defeats in recent months and expelled nearly two dozen members of his own party from the bloc, eliminating his government’s working majority and further fracturing an already-divided party. He is banking on voters’ frustration with a Parliament that has four times refused to approve a deal that would allow Brexit to happen.
Opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn pledged before the vote to “launch the most ambitious and radical campaign for real change our country has ever seen.”
Labour leadership was initially divided over backing the election but decided to do so once the Brexit deadline had been officially extended, taking the chance of an imminent hard exit off the table.
While Johnson and most Conservatives have been consistent on their message to deliver Brexit, the Labour Party has struggled to clearly define their position on the quagmire – something that may prove to be an Achilles’ heel.
Recent polling shows the Conservative Party leading Labour by a margin of about 15 points, though more people want to remain in the EU than leave the bloc. And with minority parties poised to capture a not-inconsequential portion of the electorate, Conservatives are not guaranteed an outright majority.
The path to securing enough votes to support election was bumpy. The government on Monday failed to get the backing of two-thirds of the House of Commons needed to pass a motion calling for a general election under an act that sets out timetables for parliamentary elections.
Tuesday’s measure, however, was set up to bypass that supermajority requirement and only needed a simple majority to pass. With Labour on board by Tuesday morning, its passage was essentially guaranteed.
Lawmakers also squabbled over the date for an election. Labour, the Liberal Democrats and other parties pushed for Monday, Dec. 9 because of concerns over disenfranchising students who could be traveling home for the holidays on the 12th. An earlier date would also ensure that the government would not be able to bring its Brexit deal back before the election because of rules governing how long Parliament must be suspended before a poll.
But an amendment setting the election for Dec. 9 was ultimately narrowly voted down.
A pair of amendments to expand the right to vote to EU citizens and lower the voting age also threatened to derail the election measure but were not ultimately put up for a vote.