Peers have inflicted another defeat on the government by voting to keep Britain inside the single market after Brexit.
The House of Lords urged a Norway-style deal that would keep our borders open and mean still paying money into Brussels coffers.
Peers were warned that a vote in favour of continued membership of the European Economic Area (EEA) would ‘fly in the face of the biggest democratic vote in our history’ and cause untold damage to the reputation to the Lords.
But the amendment to the EU Withdrawal Bill was passed by 245 votes to 218. Amongst the peers voting against the government were Lord Mandelson, Lord Kinnock, Baroness Kinnock, Lord Heseltine and Lord Patten, who all have EU pensions thanks to previous roles in Brussels.
Labour’s frontbench had urged its peers not to support the amendment, but it passed after 83 joined the revolt. Seventeen Tory peers also rebelled as the government suffered its 14th defeat on the legislation.
All twelve of the amendments passed by peers will return to the Commons in the coming weeks with ministers expected to order MPs to overturn them
Labour’s Baroness Hayter (pictured during tonight’s debate) told peers removing the exit date would ‘make the task easier for negotiators’
Earlier the Lords voted to strip the official date of Brexit. Axing the date from the EU (Withdrawal) Bill will not stop the Article 50 clock and should not delay Britain’s actual departure from the Brussels club.
But the move flies in the face of Government policy to write the date of March 29, 2019, into British law.
Opposition and rebel peers claim stripping the date from the Bill will make the negotiations easier.
The 311 to 233 vote was the second defeat for ministers today on the final day of report stage on the flagship legislation.
Earlier peers demanded Britain stay in EU agencies after quitting the bloc, voting 298 to 227 in defiance of appeals from the minister.
All of the amendments passed by peers will return to the Commons in the coming weeks with ministers expected to order MPs to overturn them.
Lords defeats: What happens next?
The dozen defeats inflicted by peers on the Brexit bill must all be considered by MPs before they are law.
The Lords amendments will be sent to the Commons to be considered in the coming weeks and ministers are expected to order MPs to delete all of them.
Cancelled amendments will then be sent back to the Lords in a process known as ‘parliamentary ping pong’ – but peers are not allowed to just vote them through again unchanged.
If Rebel Tories join forces with the Opposition to successfully defend any of the Lords amendments, ministers will have to accept them.
A major fight is expected over a crucial amendment stripping Theresa May of her powers to walk away from talks without a deal. Remain supporters believe there are enough Tory rebels to defend it in the Commons in what would be a major blow to the PM’s authority.
The Duke of Wellington led a cross-party move to delete the exit date, March 29 2019, from the Bill to give ministers greater flexibility.
The Tory peer said he was trying to help the Government in its negotiations and not to ‘thwart the process’.
The Duke said the aim was to revert to the original wording of the Bill and the Government’s decision to amend it in the Commons by adding the date had been unnecessary.
‘We know beyond any doubt that for the purposes of this Bill we leave the EU on March 29 2019.
‘But this date should not be defined and specified … in case it becomes necessary and in the national interest to agree an extension as provided in Article 50.’
Labour’s Baroness Hayter told peers removing the exit date would ‘make the task easier for negotiators’.
She said: ‘If this amendment is successful, it will remove the straitjacket that the Government are in, I have to say not at the behest of negotiators but at the behest of certain ardent Brexiteers.
‘Let’s get the straitjacket out, let’s make the task easier for negotiators.’
Tory peer the Duke of Wellington led a cross-party move to delete the exit date, March 29 2019, from the Bill to give ministers greater flexibility
Proposing the change to the flagship Brexit legislation, the Bishop of Leeds, the Rt Rev Nick Baines (pictured , lashed out at Brexiteers
Proposing the change to the flagship Brexit legislation, the Bishop of Leeds, the Rt Rev Nick Baines, lashed out at Brexiteers for condemning all those seeking to change the bill as ‘a hypocritical remoaner intent on sabotaging the Bill and trying to prevent Brexit from ever happening’.
What have peers defeated the Government on?
Amendment 1: Requires the Government to make a statement on its efforts to negotiate a customs union
Amendment 11: Insists changes to employments, equality, health and safety, consumer standards and environmental law can only be made by primary legislation
Amendment 15: Incorporating the Charter of Fundamental Rights into UK law
Amendment 18: Ends ministers’ ability to specify when individuals are allowed to challenge EU law kept after Brexit
Amendment 19: Creates a right to bring court cases if the UK fails to comply with the general principles of UK law
Amendment 31: Limits the scope of so-called ‘Henry VIII’ powers that allows ministers to re-write EU laws as they are copied into British law
Amendment 49: Cancels Theresa May’s right to walk away from Brexit talks without having a vote of Parliament
Amendment 51: Stop ministers implementing the deal unless Parliament has approved a mandate for negotiations about the future relationship.
Amendment 59: Maintain the Dublin Regulations allowing asylum seekers who reach Europe to join family already in Britain
Amendment 88: Enshrines support for the Good Friday Agreement in the Bill
Amendment 93: Allowing the Government to stay in EU agencies or mirror EU rules
Amendment 95: Stripping the date of Brexit off the Bill
He told peers: ‘I regret the referendum result but I accept that the UK is to leave even on this 73rd anniversary of VE Day.
‘My concern … is to ask the Government seriously to consider improvements to the Bill in order both that the people should be clear about the how as well as the what of Brexit, and that the transition to a final arrangement might be as good as we can get it.’
The bishop added: ‘This amendmen does not in any way place an additional burden on the Government, nor does it ask the Government to change its stated policy stance.
‘It formalises and reinforces those commitments made by the Prime Minister.’
Brexit minister Lord Callanan, had urged peers against the move – and even gave rare praise to Lord Adonis, who also opposed the plan.
He said: ‘The amendment may have been tabled with one eye on the withdrawal agreement, but ministerial colleagues and I have been very clear throughout this Bill’s passage, both within this House and in the other place, that this Bill’s aim is just to create a functioning statute book as we depart from the EU.’
He added: ‘On this point, I find myself surprisingly in agreement with Lord Adonis, I think probably for the first time in all of this Bill’s passage. On this particular narrow point, he is right.’
Lord Callanan concluded: ‘I do not believe that anything would be gained from its acceptance in the Bill apart from confusion and uncertainty.’
The Lords has already inflicted ten defeats on the Government at the report stage of the EU Withdrawal Bill, including removing the option of the Prime Minister walking away from Brexit talks with no deal.
Labour peers have been instructed not to back the cross-party amendment to keep Britain inside the single market, but dozens could defy the party leadership.
Diehard Remainers last night reacted with fury over the party’s refusal to support the amendment requiring the Government to negotiate EEA membership.
Theresa May (pictured today in Downing Street) has been repeatedly defeated in the House of Lords on her Brexit legislation
Labour peer Lord Alli, who is one of the signatories to the amendment, accused the party of ‘complete cowardice’ by ordering its members to abstain.
Labour MP Chuka Umunna, a supporter of the pro-EU Open Britain campaign, said staying in the single market was ‘important in avoiding a return to a hard border’ between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.
‘Given the numbers of Conservative MPs now supporting the UK continuing to participate in the EEA, Labour is looking a gift horse in the mouth,’ he said.
‘We can keep the UK in the EEA – and its protections for workers, consumers and the environment – by supporting this move.
‘We know the damage leaving the single market will do to our economy, to public services and to our NHS, so it would go against Labour’s progressive values for the party not to vote in favour of these amendments tabled by Lord Alli, a leading equalities campaigner, in the Lords.’
Labour MP Chuka Umunna, a supporter of the pro-EU Open Britain campaign, said staying in the single market was ‘important in avoiding a return to a hard border’ between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland
But Boris Johnson yesterday called on the upper house to respect the ‘clearly mandated’ will of the people.
‘Both parties campaigned to come out of the single market and customs union,’ said the Foreign Secretary. ‘It is not just the referendum but in the general election too.
‘There is a longstanding tradition in the UK that the House of Lords can under no circumstances frustrate what has been clearly mandated not just by a referendum but by the election as well.
‘Indeed, they shouldn’t frustrate it under any circumstances because they do not represent they sovereign will of the British people.’
Theresa May last week promised a ‘robust’ response when the EU Withdrawal Bill returns to the Commons.
Government ministers have accused peers of attempting to ‘thwart’ the country’s departure from the EU.