By Kylie MacLellan and Michael Holden
LONDON (Reuters) – Prime Minister Boris Johnson makes a fresh bid for a December election to break the Brexit deadlock on Tuesday after nearly three-and-a-half years of wrangling in parliament that has left Britain’s exit from the European Union in turmoil.
As the European Union finalizes a third delay to the divorce that was originally supposed to take place on March 29, the United Kingdom, its parliament and its voters remain divided on how or indeed if to go ahead with Brexit.
Johnson, who had promised to deliver Brexit on Oct. 31, “do or die”, has repeatedly demanded an election to end what he casts as a nightmare paralysis that is sapping public trust by preventing any Brexit outcome at all.
After parliament refused Johnson his third demand for an election on Monday, he will try to force a bill through parliament on Tuesday that calls for a Dec. 12 election. It needs a simple majority in parliament.
“We will not allow this paralysis to continue and, one way or another, we must proceed straight to an election,” Johnson told parliament on Monday. “This House cannot any longer keep this country hostage.”
Meanwhile, the legislation enacting Johnson’s Brexit deal has been put on hold, pending an election, Jacob Rees-Mogg, who oversees the government’s legislative agenda in the House of Commons, said.
The first Christmas election in Britain since 1923 would be highly unpredictable: Brexit has variously fatigued and enraged swathes of voters while eroding traditional loyalties to the two major parties, Conservative and Labour.
Ultimately, voters would have a choice between an emboldened Johnson pushing for his Brexit deal or a socialist government under Jeremy Corbyn renegotiating the deal before a referendum.
If no party wins conclusively, the Brexit deadlock will continue.
While almost all British politicians agree that an election is needed, Johnson’s opponents want to inflict maximum political damage by preventing his last-minute deal from being ratified before the poll.
Johnson, in turn, is trying to shift the blame for failing to deliver Brexit by Oct. 31 on to parliament.
Such is the lack of trust in parliament that lawmakers are squabbling about almost everything from the sequencing of Brexit to the date of the election.
Behind the bickering, though, Johnson is closer to an election than he has ever been in his tumultuous 3-month premiership.
Two opposition parties, the Liberal Democrats and Scottish National Party, want an election on Dec. 9.
“We won’t accept any jiggery-pokery from the prime minister,” Ian Blackford, the Scottish National Party’s Westminster leader, said. “Our vote certainly can’t be taken for granted.”
The BBC cited unidentified sources in Johnson’s office as saying that the government would agree to an amendment put forward by opposition parties to hold an election on Dec. 11.
Johnson’s Conservatives are ahead of Labour by an average of about 10 percentage points in polls this month, though pollsters underestimated the support for Brexit in 2016 and admit that the models they use are wilting beside the Brexit furnace.
When Johnson’s predecessor, Theresa May, bet on a snap election in 2017, she lost her slender majority – a failure that ultimately prevented her from ratifying her Brexit deal and so sank her political career.
In the June 23, 2016 referendum, 17.4 million voters, or 51.9 percent, backed leaving the EU while 16.1 million, or 48.1 percent, voted to remain.
(Additional reporting by Paul Sandle and Elizabeth Piper; Writing by Guy Faulconbridge; Editing by Michael Holden and Giles Elgood)
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