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Great Britain

Commons showdown looms after peers pass amendment to block no deal

A no-deal showdown is expected in the House of Commons on Thursday after peers passed stronger protections against the prospect of a Boris Johnson administration attempting to prorogue parliament to force an exit from the EU in October.

The House of Lords passed an amendment by a majority of 103 on Wednesday that would ensure parliament would sit in the weeks leading up to the 31 October deadline. Fears have been growing that Johnson could prorogue or dissolve parliament in order to allow the deadline to pass without MPs interfering.

Thirteen Tory peers rebelled against the government to vote for the amendment from the crossbench peer David Anderson, a former independent reviewer of terror legislation, with support from Labour and the Lib Dems.

The amendment to the Northern Ireland (executive formation) bill builds on an amendment passed in the Commons last week, when MPs backed a proposal from the pro-European Tory Dominic Grieve calling for fortnightly reports from the government on the efforts to restore the power-sharing executive.

The new Lords amendment would ensure these have to be debated in the weeks before the Brexit deadline. The bill could theoretically make it illegal for the government to prorogue parliament in the autumn if the power-sharing executive in Northern Ireland has not been restored.

The Commons vote is likely to be extremely tight on Thursday. Grieve’s amendment passed by a single vote last week, after a government whip forgot to vote. Grieve lost votes on other related amendments.

The shadow Brexit secretary, Keir Starmer, said Labour would fight hard to try to ensure the bill’s progress on Thursday. “This is another important step to prevent the suspension of parliament. We will do everything to support this measure in the Commons tomorrow,” he said.

The former Commons leader Andrea Leadsom earlier hinted that Johnson could use the timing of his first Queen’s speech to lock out MPs and prevent them from blocking no deal.

The former Conservative minister Guto Bebb told Sky News he believed Johnson was “quite seriously contemplating” using a Queen’s speech to suspend parliament, by scheduling it for early November. Parliament traditionally does not sit for around a fortnight leading up to the speech.

Leadsom said she was not in favour of prorogation in principle. “I do not think that prorogation is a tactic that any prime minister would employ,” she told LBC. “But there are different aspects to this. Prorogation can take place in the event a general election is called, or a decision to prorogue at the end of a session. All of these things are very well established parliamentary procedures.

“Boris is quite clear we are going to leave the EU, we’re going to reunite the country, then we’re going to defeat Jeremy Corbyn. In that order. We need to get on with it.”

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