Brexiteer Peers Launch All-Night Delaying Tactics In Bid To Stop EU Extension Bill

Labour slams 'anti-democratic' filibuster as Eurosceptics try to run down the clock to PM's suspension of parliament next week.
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Eurosceptic Tory peers have launched a last-ditch effort to kill off attempts to delay Brexit by plotting a series of all-night sittings of the House of Lords.

Several peers arrived at work with duvets, extra clothes and toiletries in preparation for a dramatic battle that aims to “filibuster”, or talk out, Hilary Benn’s bill to extend the UK’s membership of the EU beyond October 31.

The Lords is expected to remain in session through Wednesday night after Brexiteer peers tabled 86 different amendments to a Labour motion that would have ensured the bill passes this Friday.

The unprecedented avalanche of amendments would in theory take more than 70 hours to be completed, pushing the upper house into working through to Saturday – even before the actual Benn bill, which aims to avert a no-deal Brexit, was considered.

With parliament due to be suspended on Monday, those who want to delay Brexit beyond Halloween are now in a race against time to stop Boris Johnson from having the ability to pull the UK out of the EU without agreement.

HuffPost UK has been told that if the Tory Brexiteers manage to keep talking until Friday morning at 10.01am, they will succeed in cancelling Friday’s sitting.

Only a weekend recall of the Lords could ensure the Benn bill was considered by peers, and even then there would be a real risk it ran out of time before the formal prorogation (suspension) on Monday.

Labour was scrambling to find innovative ways around the Tory rearguard action, which is led by Conservative peers including ex-leader Michael Howard, ‘House of Cards’ writer Michael Dobbs and former Tory cabinet ministers Peter Lilley and Michael Forsyth.

A spokesman for Jeremy Corbyn was scathing about the idea that peers could try to scupper the Benn bill, which was expected to be passed by the elected Commons on Wednesday night.

“At every stage of this process, the government and the prime minister and the Tory Party are using anti-democratic tactics, including proroguing parliament, shutting down parliament to avoid MPs being able to debate and take action and vote on on the most pressing and important issue facing facing the country,” he said.

“So it would be no surprise if they continued in that vein in the unelected House of Lords. And we obviously are well prepared for that, and will be seeking to make sure that this bill is passed into law to give the protection against a no-deal crash-out.”

One Labour Lords source said: “I left home this morning with an extra shirt and pants. Told my wife ‘I’ll see you when I see you.’ No need for a sleeping bag as I suspect I’ll be up all night.”

Unlike the Commons, the Lords has never imposed time limits on its debates but Labour peers leader Baroness Smith sought to head off the no-deal threat with an unprecedented motion to get the Benn bill completed by Friday afternoon.

“We are aware of what would be a deliberate attempt to filibuster the actual bill not just the motion today,” Smith said. The “spate of amendments” support the idea of a “government-inspired filibuster”.

She was swiftly faced with fierce opposition from the government and Tory Brexiteer peers, with Lords leader Baroness Evans warning it would “set a dangerous precedent”.

Lord Forsyth said he wanted to take action because “a bunch of Liberals and Labour Party people have seized control of the agenda” from the government, adding Lady Smith was “putting a bomb under this chamber and under this institution”.

Lib Dem leader Lord Newby said: “I’m happy to debate hours into the night...the brutal and unprincipled prorogation with which we are faced on Monday is specifically there to curtail debate.”

Tory Lord True said the Labour motion “was a dagger in my heart”. But pro-EU former Tory chairman hit back: “I’m jolly concerned about his heart. I wonder what his cardiologist would have said when he heard about the longest prorogation since the 1930s.

“Isn’t that a larger dagger, a larger guillotine than anything we’ve heard today?”


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