Lords’ bid to set up ‘defensive fortification’ against a forced no-deal Brexit
PUBLISHED: 14:37 16 July 2019 | UPDATED: 14:42 16 July 2019
A cross-party group of peers is attempting to block the “constitutional outrage” of proroguing parliament in order to force through a no-deal Brexit.
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The move has been criticised by Brexiteer Lords as a "trick", but the Liberal Democrat, Labour and independent peers backing it said it is "abundantly justified".
They have put forward an amendment to a bill on Northern Ireland devolution that would require parliament to meet and debate its progress at regular intervals. The backers hope that this would effectively prevent the prorogation of parliament, which leading candidate in the Tory leadership race Boris Johnson has not ruled out.
Previously put forward by Dominic Grieve in the House of Commons, the amendement was withdrawn during the committee stage but is likely to be voted on when the legislation returns for its report stage.
READ: Dominic Grieve's latest bid to stop no-deal Brexit fails
"Let there be no doubt about the purpose of these amendments," said Lord Anderson of Ipswich. "They are defensive fortifications ... I am no enthusiast for procedural gambits. Today of all days we should be wary of anything that is not cricket. But to my mind, these amendments are abundantly justified by the extraordinary gravity of what is apparently being contemplated.
"[...]For parliament to have its voice removed, precisely because of its anticipated opposition, would be astonishing, unconstitutional and without precedent in recent times," he added.
He was backed by several peers, including leading lawyer and independent crossbencher Lord Pannick, who said prorogation for this purpose would be unlawful.
But Conservative Lord True attacked what he described as an attempt to "hijack" the bill to stop the UK leaving the EU by the end of October and weaken the government's negotiating position. He accused the "hardline Remainers" of clutching at straws to "obstruct, delay and prevent" the country doing what its people had asked.
Lord Newby agreed it was extraordinary that Lords were having to resort to this "to try to prevent a prime minister subverting the constitution".
"That sort of thing happens in tinpot dictatorships," he added.
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