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Boris Johnson agrees to EU extension of Brexit deadline until January 31

A Union flag lies from a flagpole opposite the Elizabeth Tower, commonly reffered to as Big Ben, at the Houses of Parliament in central London on June 7, 2017.
A Union flag lies from a flagpole opposite the Elizabeth Tower, commonly reffered to as Big Ben, at the Houses of Parliament in central London on June 7, 2017. Justin Tallis, AFP

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson accepted a delay to Britain's departure from the European Union to January 31 after the bloc agreed earlier on Monday to grant the extension, while also urging the EU to accept no more delays.

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The European Union agreed Monday to grant Britain a new Brexit delay until January 31 next year, just three days before the UK was due to exit the bloc.

"The EU27 has agreed that it will accept the UK's request for a Brexit flextension until 31 January 2020," EU Council chief Donald Tusk said of the idea of a "flexible extension", which means Britain could go earlier if its fractious parliament ratifies the divorce bill.

The decision to extend came following a 30-minute meeting of the 27 EU ambassadors in Brussels after France dropped its objections that blocked the decision last week. Any delay to Brexit can only be granted unanimously by the 27 EU countries.

Johnson's government on Sunday stepped up pressure on UK lawmakers to back an early election to break the impasse on Brexit three years after Britons voted to leave the EU.

A Downing Street source said the government would consider options including those proposed by opposition parties, after the Scottish National Party and Liberal Democrats said they wanted a new poll on December 9.

The delay envisages that Britain could also be out on December 1 or January 1, should parliament ratify the withdrawal agreement in November or December, respectively.

The bloc might ask London to name a candidate for the EU's new executive European Commission, which is comprised of one representative from every member state and currently due to take over on December 1.

More than three years after Britain voted to quit the EU, the country and its parliament remain divided over how, when and even whether to leave.

The matter has triggered a spiralling political crisis in the country where Johnson is now sparring with the House of Commons over calling an early election.

Northern Ireland's Democratic Unionist Party, allies of Johnson's Conservatives, will not back the government's call for an early election, the party's Brexit spokesman Sammy Wilson said late on Monday. "We will not be supporting this motion tonight," Wilson told parliament ahead of the vote, expected at 8:30pm Paris time (GMT+1).

For the EU, the unprecedented loss of a member is a historic setback. But the 27 are also fed up with the intractable divorce, which is sapping time, energy and political capital that could be spent on jump-starting their economies or tackling security and other challenges.

(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS)

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