The Withdrawal Agreement Bill – the legislation needed to make Brexit happen on January 31 – is set to be passed by MPs in the House of Commons.
They are expected to vote to remove changes made by peers as the draft law enters the “ping pong” process which will see it go back and forth between the Commons and the House of Lords until both houses can agree to what is in it.
The final parliamentary showdown comes after the Government suffered a fourth defeat in the Lords yesterday as peers backed a move to protect help for refugee children after Brexit.
The upper chamber voted by 300 to 220, a majority of 80, in favour of an amendment designed to protect the rights of unaccompanied refugee children to be reunited with family members living in the UK.
However, the Government is adamant it will not accept any of the changes to the WAB.
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said the Government will seek to overturn all of the amendments imposed by the upper chamber.
He said: “We’re disappointed the Lords have chosen to amend the Withdrawal Agreement Bill that the Commons passed unamended with a majority of 99.
“Protecting vulnerable children will remain our priority after Brexit and the Withdrawal Agreement Bill reaffirms our commitment while clarifying the role of Parliament and government in negotiations.
Boris’ deal to pass final hurdle today
Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal is expected to pass today
“We will seek to overturn this amendment as the Bill returns to the Commons.”
If Mr Johnson insists that the changes made must be stripped out of the legislation then convention dictates the Lords will ultimately have to retreat because the wishes of the democratically-elected Commons must take precedence.
Removing the amendments from the WAB in the Commons will not be difficult for the government given Mr Johnson has an 80-seat majority.
Once it has been approved by parliament it will swiftly move on to the Queen for her to approve it and keep the UK on course to leave the EU next week.
The amendment on child refugees was tabled by Labour peer Alf Dubs.
He had urged his fellow peers to support the move “for the sake of the children stranded in Calais and Greece, who simply want to reach the safety of their families”.
Labour peer Lord Alf Dubs
After the result he urged MPs not to remove the provision from the bill.
“I am enormously grateful to the Lords and of course to the public who have been so supportive of the moral argument for providing safe routes for children to be reunited with their families here,” he said.
Brexit minister Lord Callanan, rejecting the amendments, said an important principle was involved that “UK courts should be able to interpret UK law”.
Lord Callanan assured peers the government would implement the policy in a sensible way and consult with senior judiciary.
He said the power could only be used before the end of the implementation period and there was no way a minister could ‘interfere with a live case’ – allowing time to consult, consider and ‘soberly extend the jurisdiction of UK courts to the historic case law of the ECJ’.
“It’s now the turn of the Commons to show what they’re made of.”