Britons will be heading out to vote in the dark days of December after the House of Commons on Tuesday backed an early national vote that could break the country's political impasse over Brexit—or turn out to be merely a temporary distraction. Prime Minister Boris Johnson hopes electing a new crop of lawmakers will give his Conservative Party a majority and break the stalemate that blocked his plan to take Britain out of the European Union this month. This week the EU granted Britain a three-month Brexit extension until Jan. 31. The House of Commons voted 438-20—with dozens of lawmakers abstaining—for a bill authorizing an election on Dec. 12, the AP reports. It will become law once it is approved Wednesday by the unelected House of Lords, which does not have the power to overrule the elected Commons.
After three years of inconclusive political wrangling over Brexit, British voters are weary and the results of an election are hard to predict. The road to polling day opened up when the main opposition Labour Party, which had opposed three previous attempts by Johnson to trigger an election, changed its position. Now that Brexit has been delayed, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said his party would vote in favor of an early election because the prospect that Britain could crash out of the EU without a divorce deal had been taken off the table. An election is a risk, not only for Johnson's Conservatives but also for Labour. Opinion polls currently give Johnson's Conservatives a lead, but there's a strong chance that an election could produce a Parliament as divided over Brexit as the current one. (Much more here.)