Thu, May 10, 2018 - Page 6 News List

Lords deal May series of Brexit defeats

IN OR OUT?The government lost four votes on the EU Withdrawal Bill, as the House of Lords demanded that the nation be kept in the European Economic Area

Bloomberg

An anti-Brexit protester sits on a bench next to a worker eating his lunch in Westminster on a sunny day in London, England, on Tuesday.

Photo: Reuters

British Prime Minister Theresa May suffered multiple defeats over her key Brexit law as the House of Lords ripped up her plans and demanded that she keep the UK in the EU’s single market.

The government on Tuesday lost four votes on its crucial EU Withdrawal Bill in the House of Lords, with the most serious requiring May to negotiate to keep the UK in the European Economic Area (EEA). The Lords have inflicted 14 defeats on the government’s bill so far.

The prime minister will have the chance to reverse the Lords’ decisions when the bill returns to the House of Commons.

She is certain to do so, given that membership of the EEA and single market would cross her negotiating red lines.

While businesses might welcome that outcome, remaining inside the single market would mean accepting unlimited immigration from the EU. Controlling migration was a central goal of the pro-Brexit campaign and one which May has promised to deliver.

The government on Tuesday lost three other votes — one that removes the specific date of Brexit from the legislation, one that pushes May to keep the UK in EU agencies and another over calls for stronger scrutiny of government lawmaking in future.

The rewriting of the Withdrawal Bill piles yet more pressure on the prime minister at a time when she is battling over Brexit on multiple fronts.

Her divided Cabinet cannot agree on what customs plans to aim for once the country has left the bloc, and the negotiations are stalled in Brussels while the EU side waits for an answer.

On Monday, British Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs Boris Johnson publicly attacked her preferred option for a customs partnership with the EU, while her pro-EU colleagues are threatening to rebel if she does.

In recent weeks, May has suffered a string of losses at the hands of the unelected chamber. Peers have voted to compel ministers to seek a form of customs union with the EU, curtail ministerial powers and expand the scope of a meaningful parliamentary vote on the final deal.

After Tuesday’s sixth and final debate at the “report stage” of the bill in the Lords, it will have a so-called “third reading” on Wednesday next week.

Further amendments are still possible at that stage: Labour has said a debate on environmental protections is “one to watch.”

It then returns to the Commons, where lawmakers must decide whether to accept the amendments or send it back to the Lords for further consideration.

The government says the Withdrawal Bill is essential for Brexit. It is designed to ensure that there are no legal holes in the UK statute book when the country leaves the EU in March next year. The bill also formally repeals the UK’s membership of the bloc.

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