By William James
Britain’s House of Lords approved legislation on Monday that will give parliament the power to scrutinise and even change Prime Minister Theresa May’s request that the European Union agree to delay Brexit until June 30.
The legislation, which is being passed despite government opposition to it, will now return to the elected House of Commons for further consideration with a view to being finalised and turned into law later on Monday.
May has already asked Brussels to extend Britain’s EU membership until June 30 to allow talks with the opposition Labour Party in search of different exit plan – a last-ditch attempt to keep control after parliament rejected her own Brexit deal three times.
But lawmakers want additional legal guarantees against a “no-deal” exit happening on April 12 – the current exit day – and have crafted a law forcing ministers to consult with parliament on Tuesday before she goes to Brussels.
That would give lawmakers the chance to make legally binding changes to May’s requested departure date during a debate scheduled to last 90 minutes on Tuesday.
The bill passed through the Commons by a single vote last week and was then approved with minor changes in the House of Lords, an unelected body whose role is to refine and scrutinise legislation.
Those changes now have to be endorsed by the Commons before it is formally brought into force by a rubber-stamp process known as “Royal Assent”.
The passage of the bill represents a significant blow to May’s authority, overturning the long-standing convention that the government has sole control of the agenda in parliament, allowing it to control what laws are passed.
It also creates another flashpoint in a deeply divided body of lawmakers that could undermine May’s attempts to persuade Brussels she can get parliament to back a Brexit deal if the EU gives her more time.
May is due to travel to Paris and Berlin on Tuesday to press her request for a short delay, before it is formally discussed by EU leaders at a special summit on Wednesday.