U.K. set for snap election on Dec. 12
PM shelves Brexit till after vote, EU says extension on talks to Jan. 31 'may be the last'
Prime Minister Boris Johnson hopes that electing a new crop of lawmakers will provide a solution to the deadlock that has stalled the U.K.'s departure from the European Union.
The House of Commons voted 428-20 — with dozens of lawmakers abstaining — for a bill authorizing an election on Dec. 12. It will become law once it is approved Wednesday by the unelected House of Lords, which does not have the power to overrule the elected Commons.
The looming vote comes two and a half years before the next scheduled election, due in 2022, and will be the country's first December election since 1923.
Johnson pushed for the early election vote in hope of breaking the parliamentary stalemate which has blocked his plan to take the U.K. out of the European Union this month. The EU has granted a three-month Brexit extension until Jan. 31.
He told lawmakers in Parliament earlier Tuesday that there was no choice but "to go to the country to break free from this impasse."
Watch: Boris Johnson says early vote key to completing Brexit
"There is only one way to get Brexit done in the face of this unrelenting parliamentary obstructionism, this endless, wilful, fingers crossed, 'not me guv' refusal to deliver on the mandate of the people — and that is to refresh this Parliament and give the people a choice," Johnson said.
An election is a risk, though, not only for Johnson's Conservatives but also for the rival Labour Party. Opinion polls currently give Conservatives a lead over Labour, but there's a strong chance that an election could produce a Parliament as divided over Brexit as the current one.
Johnson's predecessor Theresa May called an early election in 2017 with the aim of boosting the Conservatives' majority and strengthening her hand in negotiations with the EU. The party ended up losing its majority in Parliament, and May failed to pass her key Brexit measures.
Many voters are fed up with politicians from all sides after more than three years of Brexit drama, and all the parties are worried about a backlash from grumpy voters asked to go to the polls at the darkest, coldest time of the year.
"We all know that a poll in December is less than ideal," said Pete Wishart, a lawmaker with the opposition Scottish National Party. "But it is worth that risk in order that we remove this prime minister."
'We're going out there to win!'
The road to polling day opened up when the main opposition Labour Party, which had opposed three previous attempts by Johnson to trigger an election, changed its position.
Now that Brexit has been delayed, Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn said his party would vote in favour of an early election because the prospect that the U.K. could crash out of the EU without a divorce deal had been taken off the table.
"For the next three months, our condition of taking no-deal off the table has now been met," Corbyn said. "We will now launch the most ambitious and radical campaign for real change our country has ever seen."
"We're going out there to win!" Corbyn told cheering supporters.
Lawmakers voted against changing the election date to Dec. 9, sticking with the government's choice of Dec. 12.
Watch: Jeremy Corbyn talks about the expected early election
To win support from opposition parties, Johnson has shelved his contentious Brexit deal until after the election.
Earlier, a last-minute hitch to the government's plan emerged when opposition parties announced plans to try to amend the terms of an early election to lower the voting age from 18 to 16 and expand the voting base to include citizens of the 27 other EU nations who are living in the U.K. But these amendments were excluded from Tuesday's vote.
As Johnson moved closer to an election than he has ever been in his tumultuous three-month premiership, the EU warned the extension granted to the U.K.'s departure from the bloc might be its last.
"The EU27 has formally adopted the extension. It may be the last one. Please make the best use of this time," outgoing European Council president Donald Tusk said on Twitter.