Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle says he is prepared to keep MPs at Westminster until Christmas Eve if necessary to get a Brexit deal through Parliament.
He told Sky News the current plan is for the Commons to rise on 21 December, but it would be better to sit for a few more days rather than go through the difficulty of returning MPs after breaking up.
Sir Lindsay spoke after attending a socially distanced carol service for MPs and Commons staff around the giant Christmas tree in New Palace Yard – the outdoor area above Parliament’s underground car park.
Also speaking to Sky News, Leader of the Commons Jacob Rees-Mogg said Boris Johnson was defending “the big issue” of sovereignty in his Brussels talks and was standing up for Britain.
In his interview, after telling MPs earlier that next week’s PMQs was due to be the last before Christmas, Sir Lindsay said: “I would like to believe that we will all be going up on the date that’s expected of the House.
“But if needs be, the House is the servant and I am happy as being that servant to ensure we can run, as far as I’m concerned, even up to Christmas Eve.
“I would like to believe we can finish on the Monday before Christmas. I would like to put everything to bed and get everybody away from here.”
Sir Lindsay added: “It’s not about MPs. It’s also about the staff that have kept the House on the road. To keep the tap going is one thing, but to turn it off and turn it back on would be very difficult.”
Speaking while the prime minister was dining with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen in Brussels, Mr Rees-Mogg said of Mr Johnson’s dinner date with destiny: “Essentially, it boils down to one thing and that’s sovereignty.
“We have to be in charge of our own affairs, which is what people voted for in 2016 and then voted for again in 2019 and the prime minister is standing up for the British people.”
The carol service was held by the Speaker and his chaplain, the Rev Tricia Hillas, as “a big Christmas thank you” to parliamentary staff for keeping the House of Commons going during the coronavirus pandemic.
The scaled-down gathering was live-streamed for staff working from home and music was provided by a small band from the Salvation Army, whose annual carol concert in Westminster Hall was cancelled due to COVID-19 restrictions.
Addressing the 70-strong congregation spread out across New Palace Yard, Sir Lindsay said: “Like everyone else, I wish we could have Christmas events for us to gather together and celebrate the festive season.
“After the year we have had, we all need a bit of cheer, but sadly, COVID has meant that all our plans must be different this year.
“While we have had to scale down our sights, I still wanted to do something special to show my appreciation to our wonderful staff, who have kept us safe, kept us going, and allowed business to carry on.
“This carol service isn’t as big as we would like, but it is safe and socially-distanced, and it gives me the chance to thank our parliamentary community – both here and at home – for pulling together during a difficult time, and to wish them a very happy and well-deserved Christmas.
“But be certain, once the vaccine kicks in and COVID restrictions are lifted, I am sure – like the rest of the country – we will organise a lovely celebration.”
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