British lawmakers on Monday blocked an attempt by Prime Minister Boris Johnson to hold an early general election on December 12, as he sought to break the political deadlock over Brexit.

A total of 299 MPs voted in support of his proposal, with 70 against, but he did not secure the backing of the two-thirds of the 650 MPs required by law to pass the motion.

The main opposition Labour Party largely abstained.

"Because the majority required has not been reached, the noes have it," House of Commons Speaker John Bercow said after the result was announced.

An exasperated Johnson in response said the electorate would find the situation "utterly bewildering" and vowed to end the "paralysis" over Britain's departure from the European Union.

"One way or another, we must proceed to an election," he told MPs.

"Later on this evening the government will give notice of presentation of a short bill for an election on December 12 so we can finally get Brexit done.

"This house cannot any longer keep this country hostage. Millions of families and businesses cannot plan for the future," he said.

Johnson's new motion, expected to be debated and voted on Tuesday, is expected to propose that a call for an early election can be passed by a simple majority.

Johnson runs a minority Conservative government. He is pushing for a general election to try to secure a majority in parliament which would enable him to get the required support to approve his divorce deal with Brussels.

EU leaders earlier on Monday approved a third extension to the Brexit process until January 31, 2020. Johnson begrudgingly accepted this but urged them not to grant any more time after that.

This story has been published from a wire agency feed without modifications to the text. Only the headline has been changed.