Unelected Lords Pass Amendment to Stop No Deal Brexit

LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - MARCH 29: Anti Brexit demonstrators continue their protest outside the Houses of Parliament on March 29, 2018 in London, United Kingdom. British Prime Minister Theresa May is touring Britain to mark the one-year countdown of Britain's EU departure. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)
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Unelected peers in the House of Lords have passed an amendment which could theoretically block Boris Johnson from suspending Parliament so that Britain can leave the EU on October 31st without a deal.

2pm Update: MPs vote in favour of preventing the full suspension of parliament, minister resigns, two members of Cabinet abstain

Members of Parliament voted on Thursday afternoon in support of an amendment to the Northern Ireland (Executive Formation) Bill which would prevent the full suspension of parliament if parliament is prorogued.

The Benn-Burt amendment, which outlines that if parliament is suspended, it must be recalled for five days of debate on Northern Ireland, passed 315 to 274 against (majority of 41).

The tally means that 17 Conservative MPs defied the whip and voted for the amendment.

Margot James, Minister for Digital and the Creative Industries, voted against the government and reportedly has resigned. Sky News’s Beth Rigby reports that 30 Tory MPs abstained, including Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond and Secretary of State for Justice David Gauke abstained, and that Prime Minister Theresa May will be calling for those ministers’ resignations.

A vote on the Northern Ireland (Executive Formation) Bill will take place later on Thursday.

The original story continues below…

A bill put forward by Remainer Tory MP Dominic Grieve forcing MPs to produce fortnightly reports on the progress of restoring power sharing in Northern Ireland passed by one vote in the House of Commons on June 10th.

The Lords passed a motion on Wednesday by a majority of 103 which would strengthen that legislation, forcing MPs to not only produce the report, but present it fortnightly, as well, resulting in parliamentarians having to sit in the weeks leading up to the Halloween Brexit deadline.

The Northern Ireland (Executive Formation) Bill is returning to the Commons for a further vote on Thursday.

The Guardian reports that 13 Tory Remainers are set to back the bill that includes the anti-Brexit amendment, with support from the pro-EU Liberal Democrats and the Labour Party, the latter having recently hardened its official position against a clean exit.

BBC Newsnight‘s Nicholas Watt said on Wednesday that a number of ministers could resign to back the bill, saying: “Tonight I’ve learnt there are big discussions amongst big ministers about whether they should resign tomorrow. It is to support a possible vote in Parliament which would effectively block the next prime minister from suspending Parliament.”

Mr Watt added: “The Speaker’s clerks are very unhappy about this, because they’re saying the Grieve amendment goes beyond the scope of this bill.”

During the campaign for leadership of the Conservative Party, frontrunner Boris Johnson has pledged that the UK will leave the EU on October 31st, with out without a deal. In order to prevent anti-Brexit forces within Parliament from stopping the UK leaving as scheduled, Mr Johnson is said to be considering proroguing (suspending) parliament for the two weeks up to the end of October, timed before a November Queen’s speech, the house normally rising for a fortnight before the monarch addresses parliament. In so doing, the prospective prime minister can stop such attempts.

A series of Remainer plots have been afoot in the past week to try to stop a clean exit; however, Mr Grieve was forced to admit on Tuesday that “technically [it] may be quite difficult” to block a no-deal Brexit.

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