WASHINGTON - British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, stymied in his efforts to have Britain divorce itself from the European Union by next week, on Thursday called for a snap national election on Dec. 12 to give voters a chance to weigh in on protracted but indecisive wrangling over Brexit in parliament.
But Johnson needs a two-thirds vote in the House of Commons to win approval for the quick election and it was not immediately clear if he could win enough support to hold it.
With Conservatives holding less than half of the seats in parliament, Johnson would need substantial support from the opposition Labor Party. Labor said that, before supporting an election, it wants assurances that an exit from the EU by next Thursday, which Johnson has long pushed for, has definitely been ruled out.
Johnson, in a letter to Labor leader Jeremy Corbyn, said, "An election on 12 December will allow a new parliament and government to be in place by Christmas. If I win a majority in this election, we will then ratify the great new deal that I have negotiated, get Brexit done in January and the country will move on."
Johnson's election gambit came after he was thwarted this week in winning the House of Commons' expedited approval for his Brexit plan.
Lawmakers voted for the deal that he worked out with the other 27 EU countries, the first time parliament has cast a favorable vote on any Brexit plan. But then the House of Commons rejected his call for final passage within three days, a timetable that would have allowed Britain to exit the EU next week.
With the uncertainty surrounding the Brexit outcome, Johnson earlier this week asked the EU for a delay in implementing Britain's departure until Jan. 31, but the EU has yet to respond.