Now Lords have bettered Brexit Bill, MPs must do their duty

by Luke Lythgoe | 09.05.2018

Last night marked the end of a bruising series of defeats for Theresa May’s EU Withdrawal Bill in the House of Lords. Peers have racked up a grand total of 14 amendments to the centrepiece of the government’s Brexit legislation.

The Lords have stepped up and given this monstrosity of a Bill the thorough scrutiny it required. It isn’t a case of the Lords trying to drive an “ermine-covered wrecking ball” through Brexit, as Jacob Rees-Mogg has claimed. Rather it’s a triumph for common sense over blind dogma and bureaucratic trickery.

Yesterday’s four amendments unexpectedly included one to keep the UK in the European Economic Area – and therefore the single market – after Brexit. Peers also voted to remove the fixed date for “Brexit Day” on the front of the Bill, therefore limiting the chance of crashing out of the EU without a deal simply because we ran out of time.

Other amendments passed in the Lords over the last few weeks have included demands to keep the UK in a customs union with the EU, guarantee no hard border in Ireland, keep the Charter of Fundamental Rights and limit ministers’ so-called “Henry VIII powers”. Below is a table outlining all 14 of the amendments.

Table of Lords amendments to Withdrawal Bill

The most significant amendment for the People’s Vote campaign was the one strengthening the meaningful vote MPs will get on May’s final Brexit deal. It effectively sets a deadline of November 30 for this key parliamentary vote – therefore providing enough time for a people’s vote before the two-year Article 50 clock runs out in March 2019.

So what happens now? The Lords’ amendments have to return to House of Commons. This must happen quickly so MPs get the chance to properly consider this unexpectedly large raft of changes. But it wouldn’t be out of character for May to delay the process and avoid facing the music for as long as possible. Might she even try to abandon her amendment-riddled Bill altogether?

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Once the Bill does return, the Lords’ amendments will need the full support of Labour – bar a few unreconstructed Brexit outliers such as Kate Hoey. It will also need all the other opposition parties behind it, and at least 10 pro-European Tory rebels.

It’s certainly do-able. That’s what happened when the Commons defeated the government to push through an earlier version of the meaningful vote amendment in December. Then 11 so-called Tory “mutineers” refused to be bullied by government whips or the vitriolic pro-Brexit press. If a similar coalition comes together on some of the key Lords’ amendments, May’s destructive Brexit will be on the ropes.

For now the British people have the Lords to thank for keeping the fight against May’s ministerial power grab alive, putting the country’s interests ahead of the party politics and blinkered Brexit dogma which seem to have infected so many MPs. Far from thwarting the will of the people, they should be hailed as national heroes.

InFacts is a founding member of the People’s Vote campaign.

Edited by Quentin Peel

5 Responses to “Now Lords have bettered Brexit Bill, MPs must do their duty”

  • I’m a broken record on my comments……Westminster has in its hand the well being of 65 million Brits. In the badly thought out Referendum, just over a quarter of the nation voted this Leave nonsense.
    So I agree the Lords Remainers are heroes. The rest are wimps, and denying the reality forecast by knowledgeable and experienced commentators. My friend who thought we wouldn’t have to pay VAT anymore was very disappointed when I told him that was not the case!

  • One of the arguments most frequently deployed against the EEA is that it would relegate the UK to the status of a “vassal state”. This is patently wrong. EEA countries are not subject to the supremacy of EU law. Any rules relating to the aspects of the single market that apply within the EEA internal market must be passed by the national parliaments of the EEA countries. And EEA countries are not subject to the direct jurisdiction of the European court of justice (ECJ).

    The EEA is overseen by the Efta court, and disputes are managed by the Efta Surveillance Authority. The Efta court routinely makes decisions and rulings that diverge from the ECJ, and it would of course have at least one British judge, if we were to join – most observers agree that there would likely be two British judges.

    For those concerned about EU immigration, articles 112 and 113 of the EEA agreement offer the possibility of unilaterally suspending the operation of any one of the four freedoms – including the free movement of labour – subject to the presentation of a political case to the EU27 outlining the presence of “serious economic, societal or environmental difficulties”. There is legal precedent for this through protocol 15 of the EEA agreement, which applies to Liechtenstein and would have been offered to the Swiss, if they had chosen to join the EEA. And Britain would only pay for what is accessed from the single market. This means it would not transgress the prime minister’s red lines on the single market or on ECJ jurisdiction, while offering veto power through the EEA joint committee, which determines whether EU laws and directives are relevant to the EEA and/or whether adaptations are necessary. It would also give us access to expert working groups and agencies, alongside EU member states. This gives EEA governments multiple opportunities to shape and influence EU regulations and directives before they are approved. EEA governments do not have voting rights in any of these settings, but the vast majority of decisions in Brussels are taken by consensus in any case, and the views of EEA countries play an important part in the decision-making process.

    EFTA has free trade agreements with 40 odd countries, so might be the basis for a sensible alternative and compromise. The Lords are right to fight on all fronts to get the best deal in the end, surely.

  • As far as I’m concerned the Lords are traitors and going against the will of the British people totally undemocratic and will eventually pay for it.
    David Cameron sent out a leaflet quite clearly stating the consequences of leaving the EU I knew fine well what I voted for and so did 17.4 million people a complete total break from the EU ie customs Union single market etc etc we are not thick stupid people an absolute disgrace to British democracy.

  • Interesting to read the some of the names of MPs who opposed reform of the Lords when it was last debated in 2012; Rees-Mogg, David Davis, John Redwood, Bernard Jenkin, Bill Cash, Steve Baker. In other words the most ardent Brexiteers. It couldn’t surely be a case of supporting the Lords, as long as they vote the right way?

    The Lords are fulfilling their constitutional role in revising the most damaging aspects of the Brexit Bill, which they are fully entitled to do. The Government have completly ignored almost half the population with their narrow ideologically-driven version of Brexit, which would if unamended lead to all kinds of widespread damage to the economy, private businesses and the rights of ordinary citizens.
    It is now vital that like minded MPs set aside party political loyalties, and see that the Lords amendments are considered in the long term interest of the country.

  • The British people have not spoken in any meaningful way.
    There are 65 million people in the UK and someone has to represent their interests, which is called parliament. But also:

    3 milllion EU citizen tax payers were denied a vote

    16-17 year olds were denied a vote after the precedent had been set in Scotland and agreed by Parliament that they had a say on Scotland’s future

    Many Brits abroad were denied a vote.

    All of the categories denied a vote were the most affected by the decision, which suggests a stitch up.

    The majority was only 1.9% either way, which could have shifted the other way if there had been heavy rain on the day. There was no threshold which any sensible country would have insisted up, with at least 60% needed for major constitutional change and possibly a minimum turnout also. Otherwise naturally shifting public opinion would never sustain a majority over this long and fraction process.

    There was no detail on the binary ballot as to how the UK might leave.
    The four Leave campaigns each offered a different prospectus and the main prospectus kept shifting in the main media, as if to deliberately confuse people or offer something for everyone.

    The Leave offer started with the Norway model and dithered around EEA and EFTA, then it went to Switz, then Turkey, then somewhere else, then Canada, then Canada plus and so on. There was no overall Leave manifesto and no ability for leave campaigns to deliver promises.

    There was the debate between Clegg and Farage, where Farage said leaving the EU would be as quick and simple as repealing one thin act of parliament which he waved in the air. He said that German car manufacturers would insist that the EU gave the UK a fast and comprehensive trade deal and the UK held all the cards. He said the rest of the world was queuing up to give the UK trade deals.

    Clegg said leaving would be incredibly complex, slow and expensive, involving many lawyers and that gaining trade deals elsewhere would take many years and would not make up what the UK lost by worsening it’s trade with Europe.

    Clegg was right. Costs are running at between £200m-£300m a week before the 5 times as many customs staff are recruited or new infrastructure is built. 36 new industry bodies are needed at the cost of billions, to replace and duplicate what the EU did between 28 countries ( soon 3 more to join).

    The trade deals with the EU and outside are not even started to be worked out and hundreds of lawyers and trade consultants are needed for a decade at £3k a day each.

    Then there was the lies about £350m a week for the NHS, all 70m Turks to be coming to the UK and we could not stop this, or lies to the Asian community that more of them would be allowed into the UK. They wiped the evidence of their lies from websites the night of the election.

    Now we are discovering that so far, 3 Leave campaigns illegally overspent, two of them colluded and that where the money went was mainly to a company that has broken the law, offered to nobble election candidates and been raided by the police. Most of that money came from disreputable elites, such as market traders looking to make big money from financial instability, or professional tax evaders (Mogg, Redwood) looking to avoid the EU Savings Directive.

    The public at the time bought the Farage simplistic nonsense, so they were wrong. Democracy does not always get it right. The day after the vote, millions googled the likes of “what is the EU”. But democracy is continuous and elections keep coming around. That is why people need a say on the deal with the ability to say this was not what we were told and to be able to throw it out.