By Steve Goldstein, MarketWatch , Associated Press
“Any failure of a prime minister who thinks he is above the law — well, prime minister, you’ll find yourself in court,” said Ian Blackford of the Scottish National Party.
The vote was welcomed by hundreds of thousands of anti-Brexit demonstrators who marched to Parliament Square, demanding a new referendum on whether Britain should leave the EU or remain. Protesters, many wearing blue berets emblazoned with yellow stars symbolizing the EU flag, poured out of subways and buses for the last-ditch effort.
“Another chance for sanity and perhaps rationality to take over, rather than emotion,” filmmaker Jove Lorenty said as he stood outside Parliament. “Never give up until the fat lady sings. No one knows what will happen, but we have hope.”
Johnson, who came to power in July vowing to get Brexit finished, called any delay to Britain’s departure pointless, expensive and deeply corrosive of public trust.” And he warned that the bloc’s approval could not be guaranteed.
“There is very little appetite among our friends in the EU for this business to be protracted by one extra day,” Johnson said. “They have had three and a half years of this debate.”
EU leaders have made the same point. Macron said Friday that “the Oct. 31 date must be respected. I don’t believe new delays should be granted.”
The EU was guarded in its response to Saturday’s vote.
“It will be for the U.K. government to inform us about the next steps as soon as possible,” EU Commission spokeswoman Mina Andreeva tweeted.
When push comes to shove, the EU seems likely to grant an extension if needed to avoid a disruptive no-deal Brexit.
Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said his country saw the vote as a delay, rather than a rejection of the Brexit deal. For EU leaders, avoiding a chaotic, no-deal Brexit should be the “top priority,” he said in a tweet.
And the European Parliament’s chief Brexit official, Guy Verhofstadt, noted that time was now tight to get the deal approved by the EU legislature before Oct. 31, meaning a short delay might be needed.
If Parliament approves the Withdrawal Agreement Bill in time, Britain could still leave by the end of October. The government plans to introduce the bill next week and could hold late-night sittings of Parliament in hope of getting it passed within days.
But Johnson must win over a fractious and divided Parliament, which three times rejected the Brexit plan negotiated by his predecessor Theresa May.
His hopes of getting the deal through Parliament were dealt a blow when his Northern Ireland ally, the Democratic Unionist Party, said it would not back him. The party says Johnson’s Brexit package — which carves out special status for Northern Ireland to keep an open border with EU member Ireland — is bad for the region and weakens its bonds with the rest of the U.K.
To make up for the votes of 10 DUP lawmakers, Johnson has tried to persuade members of the left-of-center Labour Party to support the deal. Late Friday, the government promised to bolster protections for the environment and workers’ rights to allay Labour fears that the Conservative government plans to slash those protections after Brexit.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn dismissed the prime minister’s promises as inadequate.
“This deal is not good for jobs, damaging for industry and a threat to our environment and natural world,” he said. “Supporting the government this afternoon would merely fire the starting pistol in a race to the bottom in regulations and standards.”
Currency markets are likely to react sharply to the vote in Britain’s Parliament on Saturday on Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal.
On Friday the euro /zigman2/quotes/210561242/realtime/sampled EURUSD -0.3354% rose 0.36% to an almost two-month high of $1.1162 while sterling /zigman2/quotes/210561263/realtime/sampled GBPUSD 0.0000% climbed 0.42% to a fresh five-month high of $1.2942 on hopes for a resolution of the Brexit issue.
In London on Friday, the FTSE 100 stock index /zigman2/quotes/210598409/delayed UK:UKX -1.73% closed 0.44% lower at 7150.67.