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Britain Braces For New Vote In December That Could Ease The Path To Brexit

Photo caption:

Photo by UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor AP

Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson talks during the debate on the Early Parliamentary General Election Bill in the House of Commons, London, Tuesday, Oct. 29, 2019.

Still in turmoil over if, when or how to leave the European Union, Britain will go back to the polls on Dec. 12 to elect a new Parliament that may, or may not, be able to settle on a Brexit plan.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson won support for a snap election Tuesday when the House of Commons voted 438-20 to dissolve Parliament and launch a six-week election campaign that will compete with Christmas for the attention of a divided and Brexit-exhausted electorate.

The vote came after the opposition Labour Party agreed to the plan for a vote in elections moved up from 2022.

The bill is expected to be approved in the House of Lords. This comes after the EU granted the British government's request to delay Brexit for three months beyond its scheduled Oct. 31 date.

"There is only one way to get Brexit done in the face of this unrelenting parliamentary obstructionism, this endless willful fingers crossed 'not me, guv' refusal to deliver on the mandate of the people," Johnson said on Tuesday, "and that is to refresh this Parliament."

The prime minister later appeared to downplay his party's prospects for the December vote.

"It's going to be a tough election but we will do the best we can," Johnson told reporters, even though a BBC poll gives Johnson's Conservatives a 10 percentage point lead over Labour.

Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, who originally opposed a snap election, said that his party dropped its opposition after a "no-deal" Brexit — essentially leaving the EU without conditions — was taken off the table.

"We're launching the most ambitious and radical campaign for real change our country has ever seen," Corbyn tweeted. "This is a once in a generation chance to build a country for the many, not the few."

The last time Britain held an election in December was 1923. It will also be the country's third general election in less than five years.

It is not all clear that the December election will settle the Brexit question. Johnson and the Conservatives would need to win a majority in Parliament to implement a Brexit plan by the EU's deadline of Jan. 31, 2020. British voters could also deliver a Parliament that is still gridlocked on the issue.

Copyright 2019 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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