POLITICS
04/09/2019 19:49 BST | Updated 04/09/2019 21:02 BST

Fresh Blow For Boris Johnson As Bill To Block No-Deal Brexit Passes Commons

Rebel Tories inflict another defeat on the new PM.

Legislation blocking a no-deal Brexit has cleared the Commons as rebel MPs inflicted a fresh defeat on Boris Johnson on Wednesday evening. 

The bill will now head to the House of Lords, however, where it it set to face fierce opposition from Brexiteer Conservative peers who are threatening to pull out all the stops to kill off the legislation.

The debate in the Commons was full of drama, with some of the 21 Tory rebels kicked out of their party by Johnson on Tuesday night for triggering the process doubling down on their defiance. 

And, in a surprise development, the Commons could get the chance to vote once again on Theresa May's Brexit deal after an amendment by soft Brexit-support Stephen Kinnock passed unopposed. 

Labour former minister Hilary Benn who introduced the bill applauded the “bravery and the courage” of rebel Tory MPs whop backed the bill. 

He said they “stood by their convictions in the national interest”.

Kinnock’s amendment seeks to bring back former prime minister May’s final Brexit offer, the Withdrawal Agreement Bill, that emerged from cross-party talks earlier this year.

The Withdrawal Agreement Bill was never put before Parliament, as Mrs May was ousted as leader of the Conservative Party before she was able to put it to a vote.

Earlier in the debate, Winston Churchill’s grandson Sir Nicholas Soames appeared close to tears as he confirmed he would stand down at the next election after he lost the Tory whip over joining the cross-party alliance. 

Confirming he would back the bill earlier during the debate, Soames said he was “truly very sad that it should end in this way” and begged MPs to “rediscover the spirit of compromise, humility and understanding”. 

Soames also took a parting shot at Johnson, Commons leader Jacob Rees-Mogg and other ministers who rebelled against Theresa May’s Brexit plans, saying their “serial disloyalty has been an inspiration to so many of us”. 

He said: “I have always felt that the referendum result should be honoured and indeed I voted for the withdrawal agreement on every occasion it has been presented to the House – which is more than can be said for the prime minister, the leader of the House and members of the cabinet, whose serial disloyalty has been an inspiration to so many of us.” 

Former Tory chancellor Philip Hammond criticised the “mass purge” of Tory MPs who defied the government, which saw him and others lose the Tory whip.

He said the bill was not about undermining the prime minister’s negotiating position or handing power to Labour.

He said: “I would sooner boil my head than hand power to the leader of the opposition.”

Hammond added: “It is not us who are heightening the risk of a government led by the opposition, it is my right honourable friend by pursuing a course of action which, if unchallenged, can only lead to a no-deal Brexit”.

Introducing the bill in the Commons earlier, Labour MP Hilary Benn said: “I think wherever we stand on this issue, we know there is very little time left and, following the decision on prorogation, there is even less time than would have been available previously.”

He said there was strong feelings on both sides and appealed to MPs to “treat each other with respect” during the debate.

Benn said the purpose of the bill was “very simple” and had wide cross-party support. 

He added: “You could describe it as a somewhat unlikely alliance, but what unites us is a conviction that there is no mandate for no-deal, and that the consequences for the economy and for our country would be highly damaging.”

The government made a last-ditch attempt to get rebels onside, however. 

Brexit Secretary Steve Barclay said the bill would give “complete control” to the EU and leave the UK in “purgatory and endless delay.”

He said: “The public want Brexit delivered. The business community want certainty. This bill will leave our negotiations in purgatory with a third extension after more than three years.”