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Article 50 bill ‘ping pong’ on the cards

Will the Article 50 bill get an easy passage through the House of Lords? David Davis doesn’t think so.


Brexit secretary David Davis has told a press conference in Stockholm that he expects the Article 50 bill to end up in parliamentary ‘ping pong’ before being passed. Ping pong is the term used to describe what happens when a bill is passed back and forth between the House of Lords and House of Commons until both houses reach an agreement on the exact wording.

The Telegraph reports Davis as saying that because he expected the House of Lords to “do its job of scrutiny,” there is the possibility of some passing “backwards and forwards of the bill.” However, he added that he still expected it “to be resolved in good time before the end of March.”

The Article 50 bill was passed through the House of Commons with no amendments last week with a majority of 372. 122 MPs voted against it. The bill now moves to the House of Lords where it will be first debated on 20 February. Our previous post on the bill has more key dates for its passage through the House of Lords.

The government was hoping the bill would clear the House of Lords by 7 March. Media reports suggested that this would allow Theresa May to invoke Article 50 during a planned EU summit on 9 and 10 March.

However, if peers pass the bill with amendments, it will need to go back to the House of Commons for MPs to approve. This scenario would mean that the bill would not pass in time for the summit.

Who makes up the House of Lords?

There are currently 805 eligible members of the House of Lords that can scrutinise bills. Unlike the House of Commons, the government doesn’t have a majority in the House of Lords. The likeliest resistance to the bill will come from Lib Dem peers. The party may only have nine MPs in the Commons but they have 102 peers in the Lords. And Labour’s leader in the House of Lords, Baroness Smith, has already said that they have eight amendments down for the Labour party. However, as the Independent reports, Baroness Smith also said that they would not “frustrate”, “wreck” or “sabotage” the bill.

Whilst many Brexiteers will disagree, adding safeguards to a bill shouldn’t be seen as going against “the will of the people.”

25 March: another key date

Despite the possibility for some parliamentary ‘ping pong’, Davis is confident that the bill will be passed in time for the prime minister to trigger Article 50 by her self-imposed deadline of 31 March. They will, however, be keen to avoid doing so on 25 March. This is because 25 March is the date of the 60th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome, which many see as when the EU was born.

25 March will also see a Unite for Europe march in London. The Guardian reports that campaigners are hoping it will be one of the biggest protest marches seen in Britain. We’ll be there. Will you?

You can find out more about it the event’s Facebook page.

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