LONDON — The government has suffered a huge defeat in the House of Lords on the rights of EU citizens to live and work in the UK post-Brexit.
Peers defeated the government by 358 votes to 256 — a 102 vote majority on an amendment designed to protect the rights of EU citizens living in the UK.
The Labour amendment would require the government to guarantee the existing rights of EU citizens to live and work in the UK, from the moment Britain leaves.
The vote means the bill will now pass back to the House Commons where MPs will have to decide whether to accept or reject it.
Labour welcomed the result.
“This is a really welcome and important step forward,” Keir Starmer MP, Shadow Secretary of State for Exiting the EU said.
“For months Labour has been urging the Prime Minister to end unnecessary uncertainty for EU citizens in the UK, and I am delighted our colleagues in the Lords have sent this clear message to the Prime Minister.
“Labour believe that EU nationals should not be used as bargaining chips in Brexit negotiations. There is a growing consensus that this must be resolved before Article 50 is triggered, and the Prime Minister is now increasingly isolated.
“Labour will continue to support this simple but effective amendment when it returns to the Commons, and urge MPs on all sides of the House to do so.”
The government said they were “disappointed” by the result.
“We are disappointed the Lords have chosen to amend a Bill that the Commons passed without amendment,” a spokesperson for the Department for Exiting the EU said.
“The Bill has a straightforward purpose — to enact the rights of EU citizens who are already living in Britain and the rights of British nationals living in other member states, as early as we can.”
The debate on the amendment was hugely fractious. There was uproar when Tory peer Lord Tebbit complained that the House shouldn’t be considering the rights of “foreigners” over British citizens.
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