What's on in Parliament?

Peers gather as the vote is announced

This week's Commons and Lords agendas are dotted with opportunities to consider amendments from the other lot - the process of Parliamentary ping-pong is now in full swing - but the likely subjects for the attention of honourable members and noble lords will by the Data Protection Bill and the Sanctions and Anti Money-Laundering Bill, and not the eagerly-awaited EU (Withdrawal) Bill.

That will not be seen until June at the earliest, and it is entirely possible that the wait might be longer than that - at the moment the government risks defeat on many of the 15 amendments passed by peers.

Beyond that, it's a gentle descent towards the half-term break. But that gentle ticking sound you may just be able detect is the sound of the clock ticking towards Brexit Day, and at some point an awful lot of essential Brexit legislation will have to be processed, which could mean some changes to sitting hours and revision of planned recesses.

But there are a couple of fascinating subplots.

First, the fate of an increasingly beleaguered Speaker. Having just avoided a Standards Committee investigation into allegations about bullying staff, John Bercow barely had time to heave a sigh of relief before new claims emerged, accompanied by new calls for his resignation.

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The scale of what's happened in the Brexit bill

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Image caption The 15th government defeat on the EU Withdrawal Bill came at third reading

It is worth taking a moment to ponder the scale of what has happened in the House of Lords over the last few weeks.

At times it has seemed a near rout.

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What's on in Parliament?

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Image caption Boris Johnson will be taking questions from MPs on Tuesday...will the subject of the customs union come up?

They think it's all over on the EU Withdrawal Bill in the Lords, but it isn't quite.

This Wednesday sees the third reading debate and to almost no-one's surprise there are amendments down for debate, including one backed by the savants and superlawyers of the Lords Constitution Committee on the status of retained EU law.

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What's on in Parliament next week?

There's more Brexit action in the Lords, with peers poised to inflict more defeats on the government in the final day of Report Stage debate on the EU Withdrawal Bill - and that may not be the end.

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Image caption There could be more defeats in the Lords for the government to add to the 10 losses it has already suffered on the EU Withdrawal Bill

The Third Reading debate is scheduled for Wednesday 16 May, and Labour are already talking up a possible move on environmental protections post-Brexit.

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Ten defeats and counting...

whips Image copyright Hol

Peers have now pushed through 10 changes to the government's key piece of Brexit legislation, in the teeth of resistance from ministers, with the prospect of more to come.

So what does it all mean?

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What's on in Parliament?

A combination of the latest Brexit manoeuvres, a beleaguered home secretary and an important round of local elections should mean plenty of fizz in Parliament next week.

Image copyright HOL
Image caption The government has been defeated several times in the Lords during the passage of the EU Withdrawal Bill

A clear sign of a fluid political situation is the sudden outbreak of halo-polishing among potential Tory leadership contenders - but this is a week which could offer stumbling blocks to a variety of ministers in a variety of parliamentary venues.

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What does the customs union debate mean?

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It's just a debate.

The Liaison Committee debate on the customs union on Thursday will not be decisive or apocalyptic.

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Week ahead in Parliament

Flags Image copyright PA

The difficult votes are piling up in the Commons.

The announcement that the Liaison Committee is to hold a debate on possible UK membership of the EU customs union will provide a kind of appetiser to forthcoming debates on Lords amendments to the EU (Withdrawal) Bill and rebel Tory MP amendments to the Trade Bill.

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More defeats to come in Lords Brexit battle

Vote announced Image copyright Hol

They always knew it was going to be tough.

Last night's double defeat in the House of Lords cannot have come as a surprise to the beleaguered band of Brexit ministers in the Upper House.

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Week ahead in Parliament

Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson, Home Secretary Amber Rudd and Environment Secretary Michael Gove Image copyright EPA/AFP/Getty
Image caption Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson, Home Secretary Amber Rudd and Environment Secretary Michael Gove leave the Cabinet after ministers agreed "on the need to take action" in Syria to "deter the further use of chemical weapons"

Even more than usual, next week's parliamentary agenda looks like a basis for negotiation, with every likelihood that the timetable will have to be reorganised to accommodate a series of major statements and perhaps a full-scale debate on military action in Syria.

As I write, no action has taken place, but one way or another such a debate looks highly likely, because the Opposition will certainly demand one, and this Speaker would surely allow an application for an emergency debate, if only to maintain the precedent of recent years for a parliamentary vote before military action.

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