The move by an alliance of Labour, SNP, Liberal Democrat and other smaller parties is aimed at staving off the prospect of a “catastrophic” no-deal Brexit as MPs seek to seize control of the Parliamentary agenda from the government. Up to 20 rebel Tory MPs are believed to be considering backing the plan which would see it succeed.
The bill seeks to ensure that the UK would not leave the EU without a Deal unless Parliament specifically consents to such an outcome, as well demanding the Prime Minister send a letter to the European Council President requesting an extension until January 31.
SNP Europe spokesman Stephen Gethins is a co-sponsor to the bill.
“This cross-party bill is a crucial step in ensuring that a catastrophic no-deal Brexit is taken off the table once and for all,” he warned. “I have co-sponsored this bill along with colleagues from other parties and with time fast running out, I urge MPs from across Westminster to work together and put the national interest ahead of party interests in order to protect our economy, communities and public services.
“The bill seeks to ensure that the Prime Minister does not railroad ahead with his reckless ‘do or die’ extreme Brexit plans, and instead aims to rule out a no-deal exit – which Parliament has already rejected.
“The SNP has been clear; we will do everything we can to stop Brexit, which we know will leave us all poorer and worse off.”
Mr Johnson last night made it clear there are “no circumstances” under which he would seek an extension from Brussels – even if the bill is passed by Parliament.
Senior Labour MP Hilary Benn warned such a refusal would undermine the foundations of Parliamentary democracy.
He said: “If this bill gets through and gets royal assent, I find it absolutely extraordinary that the Prime Minister should say – as he said on the steps of Downing Street – `under no circumstances will I ask for a further extension.’
“If this bill passes it would require him by law to do that. Either we have a Prime Minister who accepts the rule of law or we don’t.”
He added: “If our democratically Parliament passes a law, the government has an obligation and a duty to abide by it. If that goes out the window then what really has happened to our Parliamentary democracy?”
The former shadow foreign secretary said a majority of MP’s understood that a No Deal scenario is “not in the national interest”.
He added: “I can think of no other occasion in my political lifetime where the Prime Minister stood on the steps of Downing Street and advocated a policy that he knows is going to damage businesses and investment, not just in the short-term.
“If he does succeed in taking us out without an agreement and that comes to pass, we’re going to be stuck in years of negotiations with the EU, of prolonged uncertainty about what our future relationship will be with our biggest, nearest and most important trading partners.”
He added: “This isn’t going to finish. This isn’t going to bring it to and end.
It will only be the beginning of a long damaging time for the British economy and the communities that we represent.”