British Prime Minister Boris Johnson urged MPs on Monday to back an early election to resolve the political deadlock over Brexit, after the European Union agreed to postpone Britain’s departure date for up to three months.
Johnson had promised repeatedly to leave the EU on October 31 but was forced to ask Brussels to postpone after MPs refused to back his divorce agreement.
Ambassadors from the other 27 EU member states agreed to the request on Monday but proposed that Britain could leave earlier if the deal passes parliament.
The delay is a major setback for Johnson, who said he would rather “die in a ditch” than prolong the tortuous Brexit process that began with the 2016 EU referendum.
He sought to regain the initiative by calling an election for early December — hoping that MPs might ratify his exit agreement before then.
“Nobody in this House relishes the idea of a general election, because nobody wants to put the public to this inconvenience,” Johnson told the House of Commons.
“But across this country there is a widespread view that this parliament has run its course.”
Johnson, who leads a minority Conservative government, is expected to lose a vote on an election later Monday.
The proposal requires the support of two-thirds of 650 MPs but opposition parties do not want his Brexit deal.
They fear that if it does not pass, he might delay an election until February, risking a “no deal” exit that many fear would cause huge economic disruption.
If defeated, Johnson is expected to introduce a bill to legislate for an election, which would enshrine a date in law and require only a simple majority — and could pass.