UK's House of Lords passes bill aimed at blocking no-deal Brexit

Victoria Jones, REUTERS | The House of Lords is the unelected upper chamber of the UK parliament.

The UK parliament's upper chamber on Friday approved a bill that aims to block a no-deal Brexit at the end of October by forcing Prime Minister Boris Johnson to seek a delay to Britain's departure from the European Union.


The legislation requires Johnson to ask for a three-month extension to Britain's EU membership if parliament has neither approved a deal nor consented to leaving without one by October 19.

The House of Lords approved the bill without a formal vote at its final stage. It is now expected to be signed into law by Queen Elizabeth on Monday.

Johnson has dubbed it the "surrender bill" and said it has scuppered his Brexit negotiations with the EU by removing the threat of leaving without a deal. On Thursday he said he would rather be "dead in a ditch" than delay Britain's EU exit.

He kicked 21 lawmakers out of his Conservative Party's parliamentary group earlier this week for working with opposition parties in the House of Commons to pass the legislation against the government's wishes.

Johnson says Britain must now hold a national election on October 15 to let voters decide who they want to negotiate Britain's EU exit at a summit in Brussels later that week.

Opposition parties have rejected his call for an election, which would require the backing of two-thirds of the lower chamber's 650 lawmakers, saying they are not willing to let him dictate the timing of such a vote.

Labour had originally said they would support an election once the bill to prevent a no-deal Brexit at the end of October had become law, but now it says it wants to see the delay to Brexit secured before an election is held.

The expulsion of 21 Conservative lawmakers, many of them highly respected veterans including some who had been ministers only weeks before, has created a schism in the ruling party.

A number of others have announced they will quit parliament at the next election, most damagingly Johnson's younger brother Jo, an opponent of his hardline Brexit policy who resigned as a junior minister on Thursday, citing a conflict between family loyalty and the national interest.

Johnson has said he will suspend parliament for more than a month beginning next week, in one of several moves he has made in recent weeks that his opponents say have tested Britain's democratic norms.

England's High Court rejected a legal challenge against that decision on Friday and a Scottish court rejected a similar challenge earlier this week. But the issue could be taken to the Supreme Court for a final appeal.


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