British lawmakers advance bill to block 'no-deal' Brexit, oppose Boris Johnson's call for new election

British lawmakers in the House of Commons passed a bill Wednesday to block the United Kingdom from leaving the European Union without an agreement in place, and later opposed a push from Prime Minister Boris Johnson for a new election in October.

The bill over a "no-deal Brexit" is expected to go to the upper chamber of Parliament, the House of Lords, where, if passed, it could thwart Johnson's Brexit plans.

Earlier, the House of Commons voted 329-300 to approve the bill in principle, sending it on for further debate and another vote later Wednesday.

Pro-Brexit lawmakers were threatening to try to stop the bill's passage it by filibustering, The Associated Press reported.

The vote came hours after a Scottish court ruled that Johnson’s planned suspension of Parliament – which would give lawmakers little time to prevent Britain from leaving the European bloc without a deal on Oct. 31 – was legal.

"To deliver Brexit like this is to create a poison pill which for 40 years will divide this country straight down the middle," former Conservative Party leadership candidate Rory Stewart told the BBC. "If you are going to deliver Brexit at all, try to do it legally, constitutionally and with consent."

Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaking in the House of Commons in London after MPs voted in favor of allowing a cross-party alliance to take control of the Commons agenda on Wednesday in a bid to block a no-deal Brexit on October 31.

Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaking in the House of Commons in London after MPs voted in favor of allowing a cross-party alliance to take control of the Commons agenda on Wednesday in a bid to block a no-deal Brexit on October 31. (AP/House of Commons)

Johnson called for a general election if the lawmakers succeed this week, taking his message directly to the people in his bid to deliver Brexit, come what may. His bid for an Oct. 15 vote failed Wednesday when it couldn't muster the necessary two-thirds vote in Parliament required to by law to hold a snap election.

Johnson fell 136 votes short; the House of Commons voted 298 to 56.

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The main opposition Labour Party has signaled it would oppose an election without legislation in place to block the no-deal exit. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn likened an early election to "a bit like an offer of an apple to Snow White from the Wicked Queen... offering the poison of a no deal".

Johnson said Corbyn "has become the first leader of the opposition in the democratic history of our country to refuse the invitation of an election," according to the BBC.

"I can only speculate as to the reason behind his hesitation," he added.

Johnson’s planned suspension also was facing several legal challenges.

Transparency campaigner Gina Miller, who won a ruling in the Supreme Court in 2017 that stopped the government from triggering the countdown to Brexit without a vote in Parliament, had a challenge in the works.

A human rights campaigner also has sued in Northern Ireland, arguing that the historic Good Friday accord that brought peace was in jeopardy because of Johnson's actions.

Meanwhile, the EU's executive arm, the European Commission, on Wednesday released a checklist for companies to use to help minimize expected disruptions to trade if Britain departs on Oct 31.

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The commission said the EU funds set up to respond to natural disasters and help people whose jobs are hit by major changes in world trade should be used to help businesses, workers and countries hardest hit by any no-deal.

A total of $860 million would be available if the EU parliament and member countries endorsed the move. Britain would have no access to the money.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.