Thousands attend the People's Vote march against Brexit in London on Saturday. Photo by Facundo Arrizabalaga/EPA-EFE
Oct. 19 (UPI) -- The British Parliament on Saturday passed an amendment delaying a vote on Prime Minister Boris Johnson's European Union withdrawal deal and avoiding a no-deal Brexit at the end of the month.
Parliament members voted 322-306 in favor of the Letwin amendment, which forces Johnson to ask the European Union for an extension on the Oct. 31 Brexit deadline.
Later Saturday, Johnson reluctantly wrote the letter despite repeatedly claiming he would not. He had said he "rather be dead in a ditch" than ask the EU to delay Brexit.
European Council President Donald Tusk, posted on Twitter: "The extension request has just arrived. I will now start consulting EU leaders on how to react."
A second letter, signed by Johnson, says he believes that a delay would be a mistake.
"Although I would have preferred a different result today, the Government will press ahead with ratification and introduce the necessary legislation early next week," he wrote in the second letter to Tusk. "I remain confident that we will complete that process by 31 October.
"While it is open to the European Council to accede to the request mandated by Parliament or to offer an alternative extension period, I have made clear since becoming Prime Minister ... that a further extension would damage the interests of the UK and our EU partners, and the relationship between us.
"We must bring this process to a conclusion so that we can move to the next phase and build our new relationship on the foundations of our long history as neighbours and friends in this continent."
On Monday, the government said it would try to pass its deal again on Monday.
The vote came during a meeting in which Johnson sought a vote on his Brexit deal. The meeting, coined "super Saturday," was the first time Parliament has met on a weekend since the Falkland War between Britain and Argentina in 1982.
Johnson had warned he may ignore the amendment because the best thing for Britain would be to leave the European Union with a deal Oct. 31.
"I will not negotiate a delay with the EU, and neither does the law compel me to do so," he said. "Further delay will be bad for this country.
"Alas, the opportunity to have a meaningful vote has effectively been passed up."
The meeting was held amid a march in opposition to Johnson's deal in London.
Johnson kicked off the meeting by presenting the Brexit deal he reached Thursday with the European Union.
Democratic Unionist Party member Sammy Wilson suggested the party's MPs would back the Oliver Letwin Amendment, which would withhold approval of Johnson's deal until Parliament passes legislation required to implement Johnson's plan.
MP Chris Grayling warned that passage of the Letwin amendment may delay the vote again.
If Johnson's deal had passed, the vote could have been the most significant step towards Brexit since British voters approved a referendum to leave the European Union three years ago.
His predecessor, Theresa May, repeatedly failed to pass a Brexit proposal.
May's deal featured a safety net clause to save Britain from a no-deal Brexit. Johnson's deal doesn't have that clause.
Johnson's deal also maintains some European Union rules in Northern Ireland, which critics fear could spark sectarian violence.
Saturday's debate came as tens of thousands marched outside in opposition at a People's Vote March, demanding a "final say" in the vote.
The People's Vote campaign organizers are asking supporters to sign a letter to Boris Johnson and other leaders asking them to allow "the chance to check whether we want to proceed with Brexit."
Public opinion on Brexit may have flipped from a referendum three years ago, with a narrow majority now favoring staying inside the European Union.