U.K. closer to early general election as Brexit remains gridlocked

The United Kingdom appeared on course Tuesday for an early general election that could break the country’s political deadlock over Brexit, after the Labour Party said it would agree to the government’s request to send voters to the polls in December.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson is pushing for a Dec. 12 election in hopes of breaking the parliamentary stalemate that 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.

Johnson — who has had to abandon his vow to lead the U.K. out of the EU on Oct. 31 “do or die” — accused his opponents of wanting to prolong the Brexit process “until the 12th of never.”

He told lawmakers in Parliament on Tuesday 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

Jeremy Corbyn’s party is backing an early election bid, and he says his party is ready 0:43

“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.

Earlier Tuesday, Labour Party Leader Jeremy Corbyn said his opposition party would vote in favour of an early election, because the prospect of crashing out of the EU without a deal had been taken off the table.

That means the U.K. is likely headed for its first December election since 1923.

“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.

WATCH: Jeremy Corbyn talks about the expected early election

The House of Commons is voting later Tuesday on the government’s bill calling for a Dec. 12 election. Corbyn’s support means it is very likely to pass, although opposition politicians could press the government to alter the date by a day or two.

To win support from opposition parties, Johnson has shelved his contentious EU Brexit deal until after the election.

The Liberal Democrats and Scottish National Party have proposed an earlier election date of Dec. 9 to reduce the possibility that Johnson could try to pass his EU divorce bill — which would allow the U.K. to leave the bloc and hand Johnson a major political achievement — before the campaign begins.

“It cannot be the 12th,” said Liberal Democrat lawmaker Chuka Ummuna, who suggested his party could accept a compromise date of Dec. 10 or 11.

“We will see what else they come forward with,” he said. “We have got to break the gridlock.”

Johnson took office in July vowing to “get Brexit done” after his predecessor, Theresa May, resigned in defeat. Parliament had rejected her divorce deal three times, and the EU had delayed the U.K.’s scheduled March 29 departure, first to April, and then to the end of October.

The EU on Monday agreed to extend the Brexit deadline for a third time, this time until Jan. 31.

Johnson, who said just weeks ago he would “rather be dead in a ditch” than postpone the U.K.’s leaving date past Oct. 31, was forced to seek the extension on Parliament’s orders to avoid a no-deal Brexit, which would damage the economies of both the U.K. and the EU.

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