EU Withdrawal Bill won't be discussed this month - or maybe this year

Catherine Neilan
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General Election 2015 Week Six
It puts further pressure on the government to provide clarity before Christmas (Source: Getty)

The EU Withdrawal Bill is being delayed at a critical time, as a result of resistance to some of the measures being proposed from both sides of the Commons.

The bill, which is a key part of the Brexit process, is not expected to return to the Commons for the next stage of debate until after next month's autumn recess. With a busy schedule, including the Budget, in the run up to Christmas, there is now a risk the bill will not come forward before Christmas.

It is thought the bill was originally scheduled for this week or the week after, but has been shelved amid the threat of Tory rebellions and the lack of parliamentary consensus.

A government spokesman this afternoon insisted no firm date had ever been set for the bill to return, and declined to comment on whether the bill would return to the Commons before the House rises on 7 November.

"We haven't yet confirmed a date for introduction to committee stage," he told reporters. "But the leader of the house [Andrea Leadsom] will set out next week's business tomorrow."

He declined to comment on whether the bill would be included within that.

The bill passed its second reading last month with 326 votes to 290, thanks largely to a number of Labour MPs who backed it, defying the party whip. More than 100 MPs spoke over the two-day period given over to the bill, many of whom expressed concern at the "power grab" it represents and suggested they would block it at future stages if significant changes were not made.

As soon as the bill passed, MPs rushed to table more than 130 amendments.

Labour MP and co-chair of the all party parliamentary group on EU relations Chuka Umunna said:“I am not at all surprised at this delay on the EU Withdrawal Bill – it is a badly drafted Bill, and badly thought through.

“The number of amendments has given ministers a lot to think about, which shows Parliament is taking back control and is already doing its job of scrutiny well on this."

Liberal Democrat Brexit spokesperson Tom Brake said: “The delays to this Bill make Southern Rail look punctual. It's crystal clear there is no majority in Parliament or the country for the extreme form of Brexit this government is pursuing.

“Amending this Bill gives us a chance to stop that extreme Brexit in its tracks and take back control from power-hungry ministers.

“MPs from all parties should join the Lib Dems in the fight to defend EU citizens’ right, keep the UK in the single market and secure a referendum on the final deal.”

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