Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock for the last 24 hours (and who could blame you?), you’ve probably heard about all the drama going down in the House of Commons.
Last night, MPs successfully pushed a bill to block a no-deal Brexit through the Commons. If it passes, it means Boris “do or die Brexit” Johnson would be forced to ask the EU for an extension to the October 31 Brexit deadline – something he is *seriously* against.
Not only that, but MPs also refused to hand Boris Johnson the snap general election he so desperately wants, with Labour and the SNP abstaining from the vote. (The PM needed the support of at least 434 MPs – two-thirds of the Commons – in order for it to pass.)
It was *spicy*. But what you probably missed overnight was a major breakthrough in the House of Lords that means the bill to block a no-deal Brexit is now one step closer to becoming law. (Yup, Westminster really isn’t letting up this week.)
But like most things that happen in the Lords, it’s not the easiest thing to get your head around. But never fear, here’s what you need to know – in a way that won’t make your brain hurt.
So, What Happened?
Long after MPs had gone home for the night on Wednesday, the Lords was still a hive of activity as peers debated the no-deal Brexit bill. (A bill must be agreed on in both the Commons and the Lords before it can become a law.)
Some peers were so convinced they would be there until the early hours that they brought their duvets along in case they needed to get their head down for a bit.
But, at 1.30am there was a breakthrough – the government announced it had agreed that all stages of the bill would be completed in the Lords by 5pm on Friday.
This removed a huge hurdle in the potential success of the bill. Why? Because there had been serious fears that pro-Brexit peers might deliberately hold up the legislation by talking out or ‘filibustering’ it.
Before the government’s announcement, the bill to block no-deal could have effectively been talked to death in the Lords. With parliament set to be suspended as early as Monday, the legislation needs to receive royal assent (the final stage in the process of a bill becoming law) before then.
If pro-Boris peers had been able to delay it by purposely droning on and on about it in the Lords, they could have killed it off all together.
Were Peers Trying To Filibuster The Bill?
In a word – probably. Conservative peer Lord True – who had submitted a raft of amendments to the motion – was accused of time-wasting by Baroness Kennedy, who sits on the Labour benches.
And she didn’t mince her words when it came to telling him.
“You are filibustering. You are preventing us reaching a bill of importance to this country and you are doing it because you are wanting to waste time,” Baroness Kennedy said. “It’s disgraceful… you should be ashamed.”
“This House has the respect of the country, you are bringing it into disrepute.”
What Happens Now?
If the bill passes through the Lords, it will go back to the Commons on Monday, where MPs will vote on any amendments that the peers have made to the legislation.
If MPs back the bill – which they are likely to do – it will then be presented for royal assent. This is when the Queen is asked to give her agreement that the bill should become a law – but it is very much a formality.
What Will Happen If The No-Deal Brexit Bill Becomes Law?
Good question. Jeremy Corbyn has said that Labour will not back Johnson’s call for a general election until the bill becomes law – but that doesn’t mean we will be heading to the polls straight away.
There are fears on the Labour benches that if there is a general election before October 31 and Johnson wins a majority, he could simply overturn the legislation blocking a no-deal Brexit MPs have worked so furiously this week to pass. That would mean that Johnson could pull the UK out of the EU without a deal anyway.
But with Corbyn being called a chicken on many of the front pages this morning, will Labour be worried enough about how the move looks to voters to back a snap general election? Only time will tell.
But one thing is for sure – the high drama we have seen in Westminster this week is far from over.