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E.U. allows Brexit extension giving U.K. more time to negotiate divorce

It is the third such postponement this year. Although the public voted to leave the E.U. in 2016, Parliament has been unable to agree on an exit strategy.

LONDON — Prime Minister Boris Johnson repeatedly promised it would never happen, even saying he would rather "die in a ditch" than see it come to pass.

But Monday — three days before the United Kingdom was due to leave the European Union — the seemingly endless Brexit process was extended again.

This means the U.K. will no longer leave the E.U. on Thursday, something which Johnson has made his central pledge during his short time in office.

He did not want to ask for more time but was forced to do so by British lawmakers, who frustrated his attempt to drive through his Brexit plans.

Donald Tusk, president of the European Council, confirmed that this request had been accepted.

It means the E.U. has given the U.K. until at least the end of January to find a solution. If Parliament passes Johnson's deal before then, the country will leave the bloc at the start of the next month.

If Parliament does not approve the deal, the Brexit puzzle will remain unsolved for the foreseeable future.

Boris Johnson waves on the steps of No. 10 Downing Street, his official residence in central London, on Monday.Isabel Infantes / AFP - Getty Images

The British public voted for Brexit in 2016 but this is the third time the departure has been postponed. It is now on its fourth revised "deadline" to leave the E.U.

What many lawmakers and E.U. officials fear above all else is that they will reach this deadline without having agreed to a deal at all. This "no deal" Brexit scenario could cause chaos for the U.K. and its neighbors, possibly triggering economic pain, food shortages and civil unrest.

But Parliament is deadlocked because it can't agree which E.U. rules to keep and which to scrap. London has become so closely tied to this continental union that unpicking these will be a complex process.

Meanwhile, Johnson wants an early general election that could secure him the parliamentary majority to deliver his Brexit plans — and perhaps more importantly bolster his power as prime minister.

Lawmakers were set to vote on this later Monday.