LONDON – Britain appeared headed for a rare December election after the leader of the opposition Labour Party told fellow lawmakers Tuesday that he’ll back Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s call for the snap vote now that the prospect of crashing out of the European Union without a Brexit deal has been taken off the table.
Jeremy Corbyn said his conditions for a vote had “now been met” after the EU extended Britain’s Brexit deadline to Jan. 31 next year. Johnson formally accepted the terms of the delay late Monday. The nation had been due to exit the bloc Thursday.
Lawmakers will vote on the terms of any election later Tuesday. Johnson does not command a majority in the House of the Common, but the bill’s passage through Parliament is now all but ensured by the backing of the Labour Party.
Johnson is pushing for the vote to take place on Dec. 12.
Britain’s leader has previously been thwarted three times in his attempt to force a new election, widely viewed as a proxy vote on Britain’s ties with the EU. If the vote goes ahead, it will be the first British election in December in around 100 years.
Most polls show Johnson would win any new national vote comfortably. If he does, it will be easier for him to secure his Brexit priorities. However, opposition parties are trying to open up the vote to EU nationals who live in Britain and voters as young as 16. It’s not clear whether such a tactic, if successful, would alter the vote’s dynamic.
“We’re now going to be out on the streets for about six weeks and I’ve just had a weather forecast, and it’s going to be good weather,” Corbyn told cheering supporters in London after dropping his party’s opposition to a pre-Christmas election.
Johnson proposed the election after he was legally forced against his will to ask the EU for a Brexit extension. He took office in July vowing to “get Brexit done” by Oct. 31.
He even said he’d rather be “death in a ditch” than see Britain in the EU on Halloween.
Like his predecessor, Theresa May, who resigned over Brexit, Johnson was able to negotiate a Brexit withdrawal agreement with EU leaders, but British lawmakers blocked the deal’s implementation over concerns that it had not been adequately scrutinized.
British and EU legislators were also worried that it could inadvertently lead to a “no-deal” Brexit, which would damage the economies of both Britain and the EU.
The EU on Monday agreed to extend the Brexit deadline for the third time in the three-and-half years since Britain narrowly opted to leave the bloc after a referendum.
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