LONDON – A bill designed to rule out the possibility of a no-deal Brexit if the UK government fails to secure a deal with the European Union should clear Parliament on Sept. 5, just in time for it to become law before a five-week parliamentary suspension.
The bill, signed by a cross-party group of opposition lawmakers, has already cleared the House of Commons by 327 votes to 299 in what was a bruising defeat for the UK’s new prime minister, Conservative Party leader Boris Johnson. It is now sat in the House of Lords.
Some opposition politicians feared that marathon filibustering by pro-government peers in the upper house could stall the bill’s progress, but Lord Ashton of Hyde, a conservative peer, seemed to put those concerns to rest.
“We have agreed that the current business of the House will be adjourned today and a new motion will be tabled tomorrow to allow the bill to complete all stages in this House by 5 pm on Friday 6 September,” he said.
Peers landed an agreement in the early hours of Thursday, having debated the matter through the night.
The move means the bill, which was presented by Labour MP Hilary Benn and requires the government to seek a Brexit extension if it fails to secure its desired alterations to the existing withdrawal bill, should be signed into law by Monday, just before the prorogation of Parliament.
Johnson’s decision to prorogue Parliament for five weeks ahead of Brexit united opposition forces in the lower house and caused rifts in his own party.
The government slated a Queen’s Speech, which sets out its legislative agenda for the year to come, on Oct. 14.
Currently, the UK is due to leave the bloc on Oct. 31, with or without a deal.
The House of Commons witnessed a tumultuous day of debate on Wednesday.
Johnson was defeated on two major fronts, firstly by the bill to rule out a no-deal Brexit and then again when MPs shot down his bid to slate snap elections on Oct. 15. The PM garnered just 298 votes in favor, well short of the two-thirds majority required as per the Fixed-term Parliaments Act.
The opposition has effectively taken control of the parliamentary agenda. Labour, the main opposition party, led by Jeremy Corbyn, has said it would accept snap election, but not on Johnson’s terms.
Furthermore, Johnson removed the whip – essentially firing – some 21 so-called Tory rebels who voted against the government.
Johnson, who recently took over from Theresa May as party leader after his predecessor was felled by her failure to pass the Brexit withdrawal bill, argued that removing the option of a no-deal Brexit weakened his negotiating stance with the EU.
The new PM no-longer has a working majority in the Commons.
He is set to attend a European Council meeting on Oct. 17-18, just two weeks before the UK is due to leave on Oct. 31.
On Thursday, Johnson tweeted: “Corbyn’s Surrender Bill would mean years of uncertainty and delay. I am determined to lead this country forward and take Britain out of the EU on October 31st.”