- Theresa May suffered another major defeat on Brexit as House of Lords voted to give the British parliament a say over the terms of a future UK-EU deal.
- Peers voted by 335 to 244 for an amendment to EU Withdrawal Bill which would give MPs a “meaningful vote” on the deal May brings back from Brussels.
- The amendment gives parliament the power to decide what the government should do if May’s final deal is rejected in the Commons.
LONDON – The House of Lords has voted for an amendment to the Brexit withdrawal bill which would give parliament the final decision on what Theresa May should do if the deal she brings back from Brussels is rejected.
The UK government has promised to give MPs and Lords a “meaningful vote” on the final withdrawal deal, in which they will vote on whether to approve or reject the terms of the deal negotiated between UK and EU negotiators.
However, that vote would not have been legally binding, which means there is nothing stopping May from taking Britain out of the EU without a deal if Parliament votes to reject the agreement she is set to bring back to London this autumn.
This new amendment – which Lords passed by 335 votes to 244 – would give parliament the final say on what the UK government should do if May’s deal is rejected by MPs. That could include ordering May back to Brussels to negotiate a new deal, or holding a second nationwide referendum on the terms of the deal. It would force May to go against her own parliament if she disagreed with their vote, setting up a conflict that would be almost impossible for her to resolve.
Labour’s shadow Brexit secretary Keir Starmer, who backed the amendment, said:
“This is a hugely significant moment in the fight to ensure Parliament has a proper role in the Brexit negotiations and that we avoid a no deal situation.
“Labour won the argument at the end of last year for Parliament to be given a meaningful vote on the terms of our withdrawal from the EU.
“If Parliament votes down the Article 50 deal, then Parliament must decide what happens next. Under no circumstances can the Prime Minister be given a blank cheque to crash the UK out of the EU without a deal.”
The amendment also demands that Parliament votes on the final deal by November 30 at the latest. This would give MPs and Lords four months to decide what to do next before Britain’s scheduled exit date of March 2019.
Brexit Secretary David Davis last week admitted that the government would have the option of asking for an extension to Article 50 negotiations, should Parliament request it.
“The rules are clear. With unanimity [among EU member states], it can be extended,” Davis told the MPs.
Writing for The Independent on Monday, peers Baroness Hayter, Lord Wallace and Lord Hannay said Parliament must be given the power to decide what happens if May’s Brexit deal is rejected.
“For the promised vote to be meaningful, Parliament would need to have a say on what happens next if the terms are rejected or if there is no deal. In either instance, it would be for the Commons to decide the next steps – not simply the government.”
“The stakes would be high. There is no point speculating now on what the best course of action would be. So at this stage, we should not close off any options for what might happen – more time to negotiate, a pause in the process or anything else.”
Today’s vote was the seventh defeat Prime Minister May has suffered on The European Union (Withdrawal) Bill in the House of Lords.
Last week, the Lords voted by 384 votes to 225 to keep Britain in a customs union with the EU after Brexit. Twenty-four Conservative peers rebelled against the prime minister and joined with the opposition in supporting the amendment.
The bill will soon go back to the House of Commons where MPs will debate the amendments added to it by their colleagues in the House of Lords.
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