By Guy Faulconbridge, Elizabeth Piper and William James
LONDON (Reuters) – Prime Minister Boris Johnson won parliament’s preliminary approval on Tuesday to hold Britain’s first December election in almost a century in a bid to break the Brexit deadlock.
As the European Union granted a third delay to the divorce that was originally supposed to take place on March 29, the United Kingdom, its parliament and its electorate remain divided on how or indeed whether 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 in politicians by frustrating any Brexit outcome at all.
His bill calling for a Dec. 12 election was approved without a vote in its second reading on Tuesday, suggesting it has overwhelming support as it heads to its final stage in parliament.
There will be a so-called third reading vote later on Tuesday before the bill goes to the House of Lords.
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.
Some politicians feel an election so close to Christmas could irritate voters, while campaigning and getting the vote out could be hampered by cold winter weather and darkness setting in by mid-afternoon.
(Additional reporting by Kylie MacLellan, Paul Sandle, Helena Williams, Andrew MacAskill and Kate Holton in London and Gabriela Baczynska in Brussels; Writing by Guy Faulconbridge; Editing by Janet Lawrence, Mark Heinrich and David Clarke)
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