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In the final recourse there is the Parliament Act, which allows the Commons to force through legislation if the Lords has not passed it without amendment one year after a Bill has received its Second Reading in the Commons. In the case of the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill this would bring us to September 11, 2018, getting rather too close for comfort to the Brexit deadline of March 2019.

There is, however, a further complication of the government’s own making. The Parliament Act states that it can only be invoked in the subsequent session of parliament from when the Bill was first introduced. The government has decided to make the current session of parliament not of the usual one-year duration but instead a two-year one running until 2019. The Parliament Act can thus not be invoked in this instance without some sort of jiggery-pokery. Presumably the government would curtail the current parliamentary session early and then immediately start the next session. Such an approach may however seem unseemly and would in all likelihood provoke legal challenges, however futile they may be.

There will also be much talk of reforming the House of Lords if it threatens to delay Brexit. The problem here is that any reform which injects a democratic element into the Lords will inevitably make it more powerful in the long run as it will have greater legitimacy. Simply scrapping the Lords — long favoured by the Bennite Left and probably by Jeremy Corbyn — will be a step too far for most Tories.

Nevertheless, we may well witness the bizarre spectacle of Jacob Rees-Mogg — an arch upholder of constitutional traditionalism — making the case for scrapping or hugely weakening the Lords while the Corbynista Labour front bench upholds its legitimacy.

The government has a long battle ahead pushing the Brexit Bill through the Lords. It will have to rely on the intrepid band of experienced Eurosceptic peers, such as Nigel Lawson and David Owen, to do much of its fighting for it.
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