A group of backbench MPs, determined to rule out a no-deal Brexit, have been trying to rush through legislation to make plans to delay Brexit legally binding.
With just four days to go until the delayed Brexit date of April 12, the Bill to extend the Brexit process has cleared the Lords despite fierce criticism from some Tories.
The Bill, placing a legal requirement on the Prime Minister to seek an extension to Article 50 to prevent no-deal, now goes back to the Commons.
If MPs back changes made to the Bill it stands ready to become law.
Peers gave the European Union (Withdrawal) (No 5) Bill an unopposed third reading after just 10 minutes of debate.
Promoted by Labour’s Yvette Cooper in the Commons, the Bill squeaked through the Commons by just one vote last week.
It ran into trouble in the Lords last Thursday when opponents tried to block the measure being forced through in just one day.
Labour threatened to keep the Lords sitting all night if necessary but an agreement between Opposition and Government whips stopped that happening with extra time provided today.
Lords leader Baroness Evans of Bowes Park said the Government still opposed the ‘unnecessary’ measure.
Tory former leader Lord Howard of Lympne said: ‘This appalling piece of legislation is totally misconceived.’
Lord Howard said the ‘ludicrous’ legislation aimed to constrain the Prime Minister’s exercise of the royal prerogative to make decisions on the exit date.
For Labour, Lord Goldsmith warned time was running out and it was critically important an extension was agreed before Friday.
Peers backed amendments to the Bill aimed at promoting legal certainty and avoiding the UK ‘accidentally’ dropping out with no deal if the council came back with a counter proposal.
Another change made clear that nothing in the Bill prevented the Prime Minister from ‘seeking or agreeing’ an extension, provided it was not earlier than May 22.
In the closing stages, Labour former Cabinet minister Lord Robertson of Port Ellen said it was a historic moment.
The UK was on the verge of talks which would determine the future of the country for generations to come and the Bill would play a part in that.
But Tory Lord Framlingham said it was all about ‘kicking the can down the road’ when Britain should be leaving the EU with a ‘clean break’ on Friday.
‘This Bill is telling our Prime Minister what to do, a classic case of the tail wagging the dog and of constitutional chaos,’ he said.
Theresa May meets with EU leaders at an emergency summit on Wednesday where she seeks a further delay to Brexit until June 30.
Tories confirmed they are already preparing for European Parliament elections at the end of May, something the PM had previously been desperate to avoid.
She is to make a whistle-stop trip to Berlin and Paris for last-minute talks with Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron on the eve of the emergency summit.
The unanimous agreement of all 27 EU member states is needed to avoid the UK leaving without a deal on Friday.
European Council president Donald Tusk has already recommended a one-year extension to the Brexit process, with a break clause allowing an earlier departure if a withdrawal deal is ratified in Westminster.
The Government’s cross-party talks with Labour are ongoing tonight as the Prime Minister desperately seeks to agree a deal that will be backed by both sides of the Commons.
She hopes to have a solution ratified in time to allow the UK to leave the EU by May 22, avoiding the need to take part in European Parliament elections the following day.
But a Cabinet Office spokesperson tonight said the Government has ‘taken the necessary steps required by law should we have to participate’ in European Parliamentary elections – an embarrassing admission that Mrs May’s plan might not come off after all.