Boris Johnson appears poised to try again as early as Monday to secure a snap General Election after a dramatic late-night move in the House of Lords ushered the rebel No Deal Bill towards becoming law.
The move, which guarantees the bill will pass through the Lords by 5pm tomorrow, significantly boosts the chances the Prime Minister could succeed in sending Britain to the polls at the second attempt.
The Lords were debating amendments to the Reaminer-backed No Deal legislation that had earlier cleared the Commons in a further defeat for Mr Johnson.
But with the clock ticking past 1:00am and more than 100 amendments tabled it seemed pro-Brexit peers were attempting to filibuster the Bill until Parliament was prorogued next week in order to seal a no-deal exit on October 31.
However, in an unexpected move in the early hours of this morning, a breakthrough was announced with the Government saying the Bill would now be allowed to pass through the Lords by 5pm tomorrow evening at the latest.
The Lords debated amendments to the No Deal bill until the early hours of this morning
That would mean it returning to the Commons on Monday and being given Royal Ascent shortly afterwards.
Seeing the No Deal law passed – which will require Mr Johnson to ask the EU for a Brexit extension past October 31 if no deal is agreed by October 19 – was a requirement before Jeremy Corbyn would back the motion for a General Election.
Downing Street sources said a new motion to call an early General Election could now be tabled on Monday, and be debated on Tuesday in the Commons after the No Deal bill becomes law.
Lord Ashton of Hyde, Conservative chief whip in the Lords, announced the breakthrough following talks with Labour after a lengthy procedural battle threatened to run through the night.
He said all stages on the European Union (Withdrawal) (No. 6) Bill will be completed in the Lords by 5pm on Friday.
He added his Commons counterpart Mark Spencer has agreed time will be made for any amendments by peers to be considered on Monday.
It is unclear what led to a breakthrough given the strong opposition of Boris Johnson’s Government to the Bill in the Commons.
Tory peer Michelle Mone tweeted a picture of her saying the Government were ready with sleeping bags
Peers had been gearing up for an extraordinary war of attrition in the House of Lords last night to frustrate the passage of the No Deal Brexit Bill.
After passing in the Commons, the Bill moved to the Lords for the next stage, with peers primed for a dramatic clash. Opposition parties, and some Conservatives, planned to expedite the Bill through.
But pro-Government peers tabled scores of amendments in an attempt to filibuster the vote, or delay it so the Bill runs out of time before Parliament is suspended next week.
With more than 100 amendments submitted, peers faced having to debate day and night for days.
Some turned up with their sleeping bags and duvets to see the first all-night session through.
Those backing the deal — Labour, the Lib Dems and many Remainer Conservatives — planned to simply keep sitting and voting until the job is done.
Rotas were being organised to ensure there were enough peers on hand to keep voting down the much smaller band of pro-Government Lords.
The peers were vocal about having to sit through the night on Twitter.
Lord Newby, Lib Dem leader in the Upper House, tweeted a picture of himself arriving at the Lords with his duvet, clothes and shaving kit as peer bedded down for a long night of voting
Yesterday, Lord Newby, Liberal Democrat leader in the Upper House, added: ‘Arriving in Lords with duvet, change of clothes and shaving kit. Could take us a while to see off 86 wrecking amendments on timetable motion today/tomorrow.’
In the opposite corner, Tory peer Michelle Mone tweeted: ‘We are ready with our sleeping bags!’
Writing on Twitter ahead of the Bill, the Labour Lords team wrote: ‘Looks like Lord Phil E. Buster & his many chums will be out in force later today/tonight/tomorrow to try & prevent us from defending the primacy of the elected House (key principle of UK constitution). A #NoDealBrexit must really matter to some of them.’
Supporting the motion, Lib Dem Lord Newby said: ‘We are not seeking to stifle debate . . . but the brutal and unprincipled prorogation with which we are faced is specifically there to curtail debate.’
But independent crossbencher Baroness Deech raised concerns that the use of the so-called guillotine motion was ‘contrary to the spirit of and practice of the House of Lords’.
The legislation seeks to delay Brexit beyond October 31 unless a divorce deal is approved or Parliament agrees to leaving the EU without one by October 19.
It is also the point at which Jeremy Corbyn has signalled he will back a call for a general election, although many in his party want to delay approval even further until after the extension has been implemented.
LET’S TALK (FOR A VERY LONG TIME) ABOUT FILIBUSTERS
Fears that Eurosceptic peers could have talked out – or filibustered – a bill to prevent a no-deal Brexit in October proved unfounded after the legislation cleared another hurdle in the early hours of Thursday.
The European Union (Withdrawal) (No. 6) Bill went through the Commons on Wednesday but needed to also pass the House of Lords before Parliament is prorogued next week.
Conservative peer Lord True submitted a raft of amendments and was accused by Labour peers of time-wasting in a bid to delay progress.
Here, the PA news agency answers key questions about filibustering and how too much talk can kill a potential law.
– What is filibustering?
It is the process by which MPs or peers waste time during a debate to frustrate the progress of legislation. 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.
– Could this have happened on Wednesday?
Yes. Some pro-Government lords could have tabled a number of amendments or made long speeches which could have prevented the Bill preventing a no-deal Brexit on October 31 from becoming law. Some peers were prepared for a long night in Parliament,
Some pro-government Lords could filibuster by trying to add lots of amendments and making overlong speeches – which could be enough to stop the motion going through. Pro-Remain peer Lord Adonis tweeted “Into the first filibuster on the EU bill. Lords packed and we will see it off. Lots more to come. Expectation that we will be here all night!” Meanwhile, Liberal Democrat peer Lord Newby arrived in Westminster with a duvet and change of clothes, adding “Could take us a while to see off 86 wrecking amendments on timetable motion today/tomorrow.”
– Has filibustering happened before?
Yes. A number of private members bills have fallen victim to the parliamentary clock running out. John Nicolson’s bill – the Sexual Offences (Pardons) Bill – which would have pardoned historic convictions of homosexuality, was talked out by then justice minister Sam Gyimah in October 2016, while Conservative MP Philip Davies talked out a bill intended to prevent carers from having to pay car parking charges at hospitals.
– Could filibustering be stopped?
A Commons Procedure Committee report from 2016 suggested that those chairing debates – the Speaker or a deputy – should consider exercising their powers to enforce time limits on speeches to prevent a bill from falling by the wayside owing to too much chatter.