Europe reacts to the vote that could delay Brexit after Boris Johnson's latest defeat in Parliament

Access to the comments Comments
By Sofia Sanchez Manzanaro  & Alasdair Sandford  with EFE, Reuters
Europe reacts to the vote that could delay Brexit after Boris Johnson's latest defeat in Parliament
Copyright  ©UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor/Handout via REUTERS

Germany has said it will not rule out a short extension to the Brexit process, if London needed more time to ratify the revised EU withdrawal deal.

Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said on Monday he hoped the UK parliament would take appropriate steps to ensure a smooth UK departure.

"I hope that the British lower house, showing the necessary responsibility, can take a decision on this today and that on the basis of this decision we will be in a position to achieve an orderly Brexit," he said in Berlin. "Should there be problems in Britain with the ratification, I would not rule out that there could be a short, technical extension."

If the House of Commons rejected the deal, he added, "then we in the European Union would have to look at whether there would then be a full extension".

EU ambassadors met briefly on Sunday to consider the weekend's developments in London, where parliament's lack of approval for the accord struck by Boris Johnson's government with the EU forced the prime minister to ask for a three-month Brexit delay.

The UK government wants to put the deal and accompanying bill before parliament again this week.

Read more: Brexit Guide: Where are we now? *latest updates*

The European Commission (EC) said on Saturday that it "takes note" of the amendment approved in the British Parliament that calls on the government of Prime Minister Boris Johnson to request an extension to leave the European Union (EU), adding it is up to London to report on the next steps.

"The European Commission takes note of the vote in the British Parliament of the so-called Letwin amendment which means that the agreement (exit) as such will not be voted today," the chief spokeswoman of the EC, Mina Andreeva, said on Twitter. In the same comment, she added that it is up to the UK government to inform Brussels "of the next steps as soon as possible".

French President Emmanuel Macron spoke with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson over the phone on Saturday asking him to clarify his country's position over Brexit after Johnson lost a vote in parliament.

"The president held a conversation with the British prime minister and shared his view for the need for a swift clarification," an official at the French presidency told Reuters.

"He signalled a delay would be in no one's interest," the official added.

The House of Commons, meeting this Saturday in extraordinary session, approved an amendment that forces the Prime Minister's government to request an extension of Brexit beyond 31 October, the latest date set for Britain's departure from the EU.

The initiative, introduced by independent MP Oliver Letwin (ex-Conservative), was approved by 322 votes in favour and 306 against.

Letwin's proposal calls for the final ratification of the Brexit agreement to be postponed until the legislation to implement it is approved, forcing Johnson to request a delay beyond the end of October.

The text of Boris Johnson's new deal is largely the same as that negotiated by his predecessor as PM Theresa May, whose agreement was rejected three times by the British Parliament and who this Saturday asked the House to vote in favour of the new deal.

Labour Party Leader Jeremy Corbyn said on Twitter that "he must now obey the law" and give the people the final say on Brexit. "Boris Johnson's sell-out deal risks triggering a race to the bottom on rights and protections: putting food safety at risk, cutting environmental standards and workers’ rights, and opening up our NHS to a takeover by US corporations", Corbyn claimed.

First Scottish Minister Nicola Sturgeon celebrated the result of the vote and highlighted that Boris Johnson sounded "deflated and defeated" after this new Brexit setback.

European leaders, such as Renew Europe MEP Guy Verhofstadt, also had their say. The Brexit Coordinator for the European Parliament tweeted that the chamber will "consider the outcome of today's vote for the Letwin amendment on Monday" and remarked the importance of the marches taking place outside the British Parliament calling for a second referendum as it shows "just how important a close EU-UK future relationship is".

Poland's Prime Minister said on Twitter that the country welcomes today's vote not as a rejection of the Withdrawal Agreement but as postponement of its acceptance·. "We will support a positive approach on EU level to @BorisJohnson government proposal. Avoiding chaotic, no-deal #brexit should be our top priority", he tweeted.