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Brexit: Government gives in on bill to block no-deal after ‘late-night pact’ to push legislation through House of Lords

Government waves white flag on legislation to force PM to seek Brexit delay

Lizzy Buchan
Political Correspondent
Thursday 05 September 2019 08:27 BST
How could a no-deal Brexit be stopped?

Peers have agreed to rush through a rebel bill to block a no-deal Brexit by Friday night in a late-night breakthrough in the House of Lords.

In a night of drama in Westminster, MPs defied Boris Johnson to fast-track the legislation through its Commons stages on Wednesday, as they race against time to get the law on the statute books before parliament is suspended next week.

Brexiteer peers had been threatening to filibuster the bill to prevent it from passing, with Labour peer Baroness Kennedy of The Shaws accusing Tory peer Lord True of time-wasting after submitting more than hundred amendments.

The Lords sat until 1.30am on Thursday when government chief whip, Lord Ashton of Hyde, said agreement has been reached that all the stages will be completed by 5pm on Friday.

“We have also received a commitment from the chief whip in the House of Commons that Commons consideration of any Lords amendments will take place on Monday and it is the government’s intention that the Bill be ready for Royal Assent,” he told peers.

It comes after the prime minister suffered two humiliating defeats in the Commons over the backbench bill to delay Brexit and his demand for a snap general election.

Mr Johnson had called for a poll to be held on October 15 but Labour and other opposition MPs refused to back the bid – which needed a two-thirds majority in the Commons – while the risk of a no-deal remained.

The Government failed to secure the support of two-thirds of MPs, with the Commons voting 298 to 55 – 136 short of the number needed.

In a hint he could seek a further vote to force an election, Mr Johnson issued a direct plea to Jeremy Corbyn’s MPs as he accused him of being “the first Leader of the opposition in the democratic history of our country to refuse the invitation to an election”.

“I urge his colleagues to reflect on what I think is the unsustainability of this position overnight and in the course of the next few days,” Mr Johnson told the Commons.

The Labour leader had said the bill must be passed through the Lords and have received Royal Assent before he would entertain the thought of heading to the polls.

He said: “Let the Bill pass and have Royal Assent and then we can have a general election.”

It comes as the prime minister prepared to ”speak directly to the public, setting out the vital choice that faces our country” today, Downing Street said.

A spokesman said: “He will argue that Jeremy Corbyn’s Surrender Bill will force the Prime Minister to go to Brussels and surrender to any demands they make. This would in essence overturn the biggest democratic vote in our history – the 2016 referendum.

“The PM will not do this.

“It is clear the only action is to go back to the people and give them the opportunity to decide what they want: Boris to go to Brussels and get a deal, or leave without one on October 31 or Jeremy Corbyn arriving in Brussels with his surrender bill begging for more delay, more dither and accepting whatever terms Brussels imposes over our nation.”

The spokesman added: “For Jeremy Corbyn to continue to avoid an election would be a cowardly insult to democracy.”

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