Prime Minister Boris Johnson appeared to admit defeat on his "do or die" October 31 Brexit deadline, saying instead the he wants a general election on December 12.
In another twist to the saga of Britain's departure from the European Union, he said he would allow parliament more time to approve his withdrawal deal in exchange for backing the snap poll. It is his third attempt to force a general election in just five weeks.
Johnson said delays in the passage of his Brexit deal through the House of Commons could "go on for a very long time" and that the EU could extend the deadline "which I really don't want at all."
Britain's main opposition Labour Party said it would wait to see what the EU decided on a Brexit extension — expected on Friday — before saying how it would respond.
Johnson cannot hold an election without approval from two-thirds of lawmakers. He said it was time that Labour "summoned up the nerve" to back the latest motion.
"That's the way forward because this parliament has been going for a long time without a majority, it is refusing to deliver Brexit."
Johnson said the Dec. 12 date will give parliament time to scrutinize his Brexit bill until Nov. 6, when election campaigning would begin.
Labour has been reluctant to back Johnson's calls for an election call, saying it risks a no-deal Brexit.
Johnson published an open letter to Labour's leader, Jeremy Corbyn, saying: "If you commit to voting for an election next week (in the event of the EU offering a delay until 31 January and the government accepting, as it is legally forced to do by parliament), then we will make available all possible time between now and 6 November for the WAB (Withdrawal Agreement Bill) to be discussed and voted through."
"The principle is: take 'no deal' off the table, EU answer tomorrow, then we'll decide," Corbyn told reporters late on Thursday. "Take 'no deal' off the table and we absolutely support an election. 'No deal' is a threat that Boris Johnson has been using all along."
Government officials later canceled plans, announced less than 24 hours previously, for a budget on November 6.
Separately, a French minister said Paris wanted a clear explanation on why the European Union ought to grant an extension to Britain's departure date past October 31.
Amelie de Montchalin, the minister for European affairs, said in an interview on RTL that France's position is to give Britain extra time only if it is justified. She said France simply wanted clarity from Britain.