Labour’s leader in the House of Lords, Angela Smith, is spearheading a cross-party bid to force the government to set up a powerful new committee to report by September on the risks of a no-deal Brexit.
Smith has tabled a motion, to be voted on in the Lords on Wednesday, calling for a joint committee of MPs and peers to be set up to examine the costs and implications for the UK leaving without a deal on 31 October.
With cross-party support, the motion appears likely to succeed and Labour hopes it will put pressure on whomever is the next PM to avoid no deal.
Speaking to Labour MPs at the weekly meeting of the parliamentary Labour party on Monday, Smith said the Lords was ready to force the pace on the issue, as it has at key moments in the Brexit debate over the past three years; “just like we did with the meaningful vote – working with others in the Lords and of course, hand in hand with Keir [Starmer], and then delivering that result for you to pick up in the Commons. Otherwise we might have crashed out by now, without a deal.
“No doubt, my motion will win. But then it’s over to you again. With the opportunity to debate the issue and get that select committee up and running.”
The Liberal Democrat leader in the Lords, Richard Newby, who is backing the motion, said: “A no-deal Brexit would have immediate and serious impacts on many aspects of British life. Before contemplating such a step, parliament must understand all these impacts and so setting up a joint committee to examine them is essential and urgent.”
The motion is also supported by the Conservative Lord Patrick Cormack, and crossbencher Lord David Anderson, who was previously the government’s independent reviewer of terror legislation.
Anderson said: “Lowering our guard at the border could have alarming consequences for public safety, as could our exclusion from increasingly vital cross-border mechanisms for data sharing, police cooperation and extradition. Parliament needs an up-to-date report so that the momentous decisions it will face in October can be taken in full knowledge of the consequences.”
The vote will become parliament’s next line of defence against a no-deal Brexit, after a bid to amend government estimates, which allocate spending, was rejected by the Speaker on Monday.
Conservative MP Dominic Grieve and Labour MP Margaret Beckett had tabled an amendment aimed at tying the hands of a government in the event of no deal, but the Speaker, John Bercow, said he had not selected it for discussion on Monday.
Procedural experts said that made it highly unlikely that they would be debated on Tuesday either.
Speaking at the PLP, Smith told Labour MPs that if Boris Johnson sought to prorogue parliament – a drastic step he has refused to rule out – she would be ready to try to stop him. “I give notice now that if the new Tory PM resorts to procedural trickery to thwart parliament, we won’t make it easy,” she said.