British Government suffers Brexit blow as House of Lords votes to give Parliament say on final deal.


The British Government experienced a new setback during the Report stage of the EU (Withdrawal) Bill after a large majority of the Upper House voted that Parliament be given power to stop Britain leaving the European Union without a deal. In a vote of 335 to 244, the House of Lords demanded that MPs and peers be automatically consulted if a deal with Brussels is rejected by Parliament or if the Government fails to negotiate any agreement. The former Deputy Prime Minister Lord Heseltine and former Cabinet ministers Lord Patten of Barnes and Lord Willetts were among Conservative peers who voted against the government.

The UK Prime Minister, Theresa May has always insisted that MPs and peers would be offered a choice between accepting an exit agreement or allowing Britain to leave the bloc without any deal. The former Conservative minister Viscount Hailsham said: “In democracies both Parliament and the electorate have the right to change their minds. Unchangeable decisions have no place in a democracy.” The cross-party amendment is fiercely opposed by the UK Prime Minister on the grounds that it would weaken her hand in talks with Brussels.

Brexit minister Steve Baker signalled the Government will attempt to overturn the amendment when the EU Withdrawal Bill returns to the House of Commons. He said: "I am clear that what this amendment is seeking to do is to give Parliament the opportunity to stop Brexit altogether by giving the Commons the opportunity to direct the Government to do anything towards the end of the process.

"This is unprecedented power, it is a constitutional innovation and I think it is the wrong thing to vote for." Brexit Minister Lord Callanan added: “It is absolutely right that Parliament is able to scrutinise the final deal, and that is why we have already committed to giving both Houses a vote on the final deal. We will now consider the implications of the House of Lords decision.”

Sir Keir Starmer, the shadow Brexit Secretary, has pressed the UK Government to accept the amendment, saying: “Under no circumstances can the Prime Minister be given a blank cheque to crash the UK out of the EU without a deal.” Crossbench peer Lord Malloch-Brown, chairman of the pro-EU Best for Britain campaign, said: “This feels like a turning-point. This is a massive defeat for the Government.”

Lord Newby, Liberal Democrat leader in the House of Lords, said:

"Brexit is the most important decision facing the country for a generation and it is vital that Parliament - not the Government - decides whether or not any Brexit deal is acceptable."

Green Party co-leader Caroline Lucas MP, a supporter of the People's Vote campaign, said: "MPs should respond by ensuring the public are also able to express their view on the final Brexit deal, which will affect generations for generations to come."

Later, peers inflicted an eighth defeat for the Government by adding another amendment backing plans to allow Parliament to approve a mandate for negotiations on the future UK-EU relationship.

They supported the move by 271 votes to 233, majority 38.

Dr. Ray Nulty is a Managing Partner with Brexit Partners