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Sunday September 22nd, 2019 8:49PM

The Latest: UK Lords pass law to block no-deal Oct 31 Brexit

By The Associated Press
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LONDON (AP) — The Latest on Brexit (all times local):

3:50 p.m.

Britain's House of Lords has approved a bill designed to prevent the country leaving the European Union next month without a divorce agreement.

Parliament's unelected upper chamber voted Friday for the bill, which has already been passed by the elected House of Commons.

It will become law within days once it gets the formality of royal assent.

The law, backed by opposition lawmakers and Conservative rebels, compels Prime Minister Boris Johnson to ask the EU to postpone Brexit if no divorce agreement is in place by Oct. 19.

Johnson says the U.K. must leave the bloc on the currently scheduled date of Oct. 31, even if there is no deal.

___

1:10 p.m.

The European Union says it is still waiting for proposals from the British government on how to end its political impasse on Brexit, while talks about their stalled withdrawal agreement continue in Brussels.

European Commission spokeswoman Natasha Bertaud said that "for progress to be made in the talks, it remains crucial that the EU does receive concrete proposals on all changes that the United Kingdom would like to see, of course in compatibility with the withdrawal agreement."

U.K. negotiator David Frost on Friday held the second round of technical talks this week with EU officials at the European Commission's headquarters. The commission is supervising Brexit negotiations on behalf of Britain's 27 EU partners.

Two more sessions are set to be held next week.

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12:20 p.m.

Britain's opposition parties say they won't support Prime Minister Boris Johnson's call for an election when it comes to a vote next week.

The parties have been mulling whether to agree to a mid-October poll, which can only be triggered if two-thirds of lawmakers agree.

Johnson says an election is the only way to break the Brexit impasse.

But opponents don't want to agree unless they can ensure that Johnson can't take Britain out of the European Union on Oct. 31 without a divorce agreement, as he has threatened to do.

After discussions Friday, opposition lawmakers said they would not back an election until the government had asked the EU to delay Brexit.

A bill compelling the government to do that is set to become law, but opposition lawmakers say Parliament needs to be sitting next month to make sure it happens.

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11:35 a.m.

A senior British government minister has apologized for comparing a doctor who warned about the risks posed by Brexit to a discredited anti-vaccine campaigner.

House of Commons leader Jacob Rees-Mogg said Dr. David Nicholl — who had suggested people might die because of medicine shortages if Britain leaves the European Union without a deal — was "as irresponsible as Dr. Wakefield."

Andrew Wakefield produced discredited research in 1998 linking the measles-mumps-rubella vaccine to autism. The study was later retracted.

The British Medical Association called the comparison "disgraceful" and Britain's chief medical officer said it was "frankly unacceptable."

Rees-Mogg apologized late Thursday. He said "I have the utmost respect for all of the country's hardworking medical professionals and the work they do in caring for the people of this country."

___

10:25 a.m.

Senior European Union officials say Britain's position on leaving the bloc is confusing and that it seems increasingly likely the country will depart without an agreement.

Finnish Prime Minister Antti Rinne, whose country currently holds the EU's rotating presidency, said Friday that "the situation in Britain is quite a mess now and we don't know what is happening there."

He says, "it seems very obvious that we are not getting Brexit with an agreement."

European Parliament President David Sassoli says "everything seems to be rather confused. It's very difficult to understand what the British government and parliament want to do right now."

They add that the EU is prepared for a no-deal Brexit and stands united in defending the divorce agreement.

U.K. and British negotiators are holding a second round of technical talks in Brussels aimed at breaking the Brexit deadlock.

___

10:15 a.m.

Britain's High Court has rejected a claim that Prime Minister Boris Johnson is acting unlawfully by suspending Parliament for several weeks ahead of the country's scheduled departure from the European Union.

Transparency campaigner Gina Miller took the government to court in a bid to stop the suspension scheduled for next week.

High Court judges ruled against her on Friday but said the case can be appealed to the Supreme Court.

The top court is due to hear the case on Sept. 17.

___

9:30 a.m.

Britain's opposition parties are deciding whether to back Boris Johnson's call for an election, or try to put more pressure on the embattled prime minister first.

Jeremy Corbyn, who heads the main opposition Labour Party, is speaking to other party leaders Friday about a vote scheduled for next week.

Johnson has lost one such vote but plans to try again Monday, saying an election is the only way to break the deadlock over Brexit.

The opposition wants to be sure that Johnson can't take Britain out of the European Union on Oct. 31 without a divorce agreement. Parliament is in the midst of passing a law that would compel the government to seek a Brexit postponement.

Johnson said Thursday he would "rather be dead in a ditch" than delay Brexit.

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