The UK’s House of Lords voted Monday to amend the EU withdrawal bill to allow Parliament a vote in whether the government can walk away from negotiations without reaching a deal. The move grants Parliament a more meaningful role in the final Brexit negotiations, according to Bloomberg.
Sponsors included a politically diverse range of figures including Dianne Hayter of the Labour party, William Wallace of the Liberal Democrats, independent David Hannay, and former Conservative Cabinet Minister Douglass Hogg.
According to Hogg:
“Whatever the outcome, terms, or no terms, this country’s future should be determined by Parliament, ultimately by the House of Commons, and not by ministers.”
However, ministers argued that the amendment would weaken the UK’s negotiating position in Brexit talks. Before the vote, Parliament would have been presented with a black and white choice on whether to accept the outcome of negotiations, according to a BBC News analysis. If they rejected the terms, it would have meant a withdrawal without any deal in place on the UK’s future relationship with the EU.
The amendment would expand on a similar proposal that passed in the House of Commons, sponsored by former Attorney General Dominic Grieve. In that vote, 12 Tories broke with their party in support, evidence that the House of Lords amendment may find support in the House of Commons as well. So far, that vote represents Theresa May’s only setback in the lower chamber, where Monday’s amendment will return for final approval.
With Tories in the House of Lords proving their willingness to break with their party, it is now up to Conservative MPs in the lower chamber whether they have the same appetite for siding with the opposition.
According to Hannay, Hayter, and Wallace, writing in the Independent on Monday:
“We and others seek to ensure our country’s future should be determined by Parliament. It seems extraordinary that we should even have to argue that case. Even more so that we should be called mutineers or saboteurs for upholding democratic principles.”
Monday’s amendment was approved in the House of Lords with 335 votes to 244. It marked the government’s seventh defeat in recent weeks on Brexit legislation in the upper house.
The amendment, if approved by the House of Commons, would effectively eliminate the possibility of a “no deal” Brexit. That outcome would leave UK citizens living in the EU, and EU citizens living in the UK, with no legal protections. It would create a “hard border” between the UK’s Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, and would lead to customs duties immediately put in place on trade between the UK and EU.