Brexit news: Bill designed to prevent no-deal 'will clear House of Lords by Friday'

Tim Baker
The House of Lords chamber sits in session: Getty Images

A bill designed to prevent a no-deal Brexit in October has cleared another major hurdle after the government said it would complete its passage through the House of Lords on Friday.

The European Union (Withdrawal) (No. 6) Bill passed from the House of Commons to the Lords last night after Boris Johnson suffered more defeats as Prime Minister.

After Tories in the Lords tabled a vast number of amendments, there were fears that Eurosceptic peers could have talked out - or filibustered - the bill and that voting would last so long that it would not be finalised before Parliament is prorogued next week.

But in the early hours of this morning, the Government’s Chief Whip in the Upper House - Lord Hyde - announced that the Lords will finish with the bill by 5pm on Friday and return it to the Commons.

Filibustering is the process by which MPs or peers waste time during a debate to frustrate the progress of legislation.

Boris Johnson addresses the Commons as MPs debate Brexit (EPA)

There is a certain amount of time allocated for each Bill to progress and, through making long speeches, raising procedural points or tabling amendments, legislation or motions can be "talked out" and not find their way into law.

Opponents of No Deal Brexit in the House of Lords had been prepared for long sitting times on the vital bill.

Lord Newby, the leader of the Liberal Democrats in the Lords, sent out a tweet yesterday to reveal he had brought a spare suit and a duvet with him to the Palace of Westminster in the expectation of overnight debates.

The announcement from the Lords did not come until around 1.30am and capped off a day of high drama in Westminster.

The Government also stated that they would give MPs time to consider the bill on Monday if needs be.

Baroness Smith, Labour leader in the House of Lords, said: "It has been quite a night. It has been a long debate - and I am grateful to the noble Lords who have stayed the course - it shows the importance of the work we do and the issue we are debating.

Jeremy Corbyn in the House of Commons (AFP/Getty Images)

"I am grateful that we are now able to confirm that we will be able to complete all stages of the bill in a time-honoured way by 5pm Friday."

The bill - submitted by Hillary Benn - has been dubbed Jeremy Corbyn’s Surrender Bill by the PM.

The opposition has said that Labour will not vote for a general election until the Benn bill has passed and gained royal assent, to prevent Mr Johnson taking the UK out of the EU without a deal while Parliament is prorogued for an election.

During the day of drama in Westminster, 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 Mr 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.

Meanwhile, Mr Johnson was facing continued criticism after Tory MPs - including two former chancellors and the grandson of Winston Churchill - had the party whip withdrawn because they rebelled by helping the effort to prevent a no-deal.

The PM defended the move, telling ITV's Peston: "These are friends of mine and believe me I take absolutely no joy in any of it but it was very sad and surprising that they should choose to undermine the UK's ability to get a deal."

On Thursday, Mr Johnson has a busy schedule, including separate meetings with Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu and US Vice President Mike Pence in Downing Street.