Rebel lords defy government on BREXIT

The Times, 7th March.

Peers will demand today that parliament is given a meaningful vote on any Brexit deal secured by Theresa May, as the Article 50 bill completes its progress through the House of Lords.

Labour, Liberal Democrat and rebel Tories are expected to join with cross benchers to inflict defeats on the government on two amendments due to be debated this afternoon.

Peers will then send the bill back to the House of Commons, where the government will attempt to overturn the changes.

The bill is expected to finally be passed by both houses at the start of next week, clearing the way for Mrs May to notify other European leaders of Britain’s intention to quit the block.

The Lords is expected to vote at around 5pm on an amendment calling for Westminster to be given a “meaningful” vote on the withdrawal agreement secured by the PM during negotiations under Article 50 of the EU treaties.

They began the debate discussing a Liberal Democrat amendment calling for a second referendum on the deal. This is not expected to pass as it does not have the support of Labour peers.

Mrs May has promised parliament a vote, but only on a “take it or leave it” basis, which would see Britain crash out of the EU without a deal if MPs reject the agreement she obtains.

She believes she must maintain this position in order to convince EU negotiators and other member states she is ready to walk away from the table if she does not like what is on offer.

Many peers are insisting that they should be given the option of telling ministers to go back to the EU and renegotiate a better deal.

Opposition members have argued that the prime minister’s position that “no deal is better than a bad deal” risks a sudden cliff-edge move onto WTO tariffs which would harm the economy.

A Labour Lords source told the Press Association that the party was confident its amendment on a meaningful vote be successful.

Labour’s leader in the Lords, Baroness (Angela) Smith of Basildon said: “As we showed last week, we may also pass amendments on issues where we think it would be helpful for both the government and the Commons to take another look.

“While the sabre-rattling against the Lords from unnamed ‘government sources’ appears to have gone away, I was disappointed that the Leader of the Lords is now suggesting, incorrectly, that our amendments may be open to legal challenge. On the contrary, it could be the government that faces such a challenge, if – as has been said by leading legal experts – Parliament is not properly engaged in the process.”

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