Theresa May warns peers are trying to ‘overturn’ the will of the people with Brexit Bill wrecking amendments which would allow Lords to veto the deal and call a second referendum

  • Peers will vote on a bid to let Parliament send ministers back to negotiating table
  • Another amendments would let MPs and peers demand a second referendum 
  • PM’s official spokesman said the changes would bind PM’s hands in Brexit talks 
  • He accused peers of overstepping their powers by overturning the Brexit vote

Theresa May today lashed out at unelected peers who are trying to ‘overturn’ the will of the British people with a series of Brexit Bill wrecking amendments.

The House of Lords is today set to vote on two amendments which would pave the way for them to veto a Brexit deal and hold a second referendum.

But today the PM’s official spokesman tore into Remainer peers over the bid – and warned it would ‘weaken the Government’s hands in the crunch negotiations.

He said: ‘The Withdrawal Bill is about ensuring we leave the EU in a smooth and orderly manner.

‘It is not a mechanism for overturning the referendum.

‘What this amendment would do is weaken the UK’s hand in our Brexit negotiations by giving Parliament unprecedented powers to instruct the Government to do anything with regards to the negotiations – including trying to keep the UK in the EU indefinitely.

Theresa May (pictured going to church yesterday with her husband Philip in Maidenhead)  today lashed out at unelected peers who are trying to ‘overturn’ the will of the British people with a series of Brexit Bill wrecking amendments

‘Fundamentally, the British people voted to leave the EU and the Government is delivering on that.

‘It is simply not right that Parliament could overturn this.

‘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.’

Peers are today set to debate and vote on a series of amendments to try to stamp their demands on Brexit.   

What are the Brexit amendments peers are voting on today? 

Amendment 49 – Giving Parliament a veto on Brexit deal

This has the  backing of peers across the political divide and is being presented by Tory peer Viscount Hailsham – a former minister.

The amendment would force ministers to get Parliament’s approval for the Brexit deal, and has been drawn up to stop Britain crashing out of the EU without a deal.

Amendment 50 –  Second referendum 

Gives Parliament the chance to pass a motion demanding a second referendum on the final Brexit deal.

The referendum would provide voters with two  options – accept the Brexit deal or stay in the EU.

It would block force ministers to halt Britain’s withdrawal form the EU until after the referendum.    

Ministers fear they will suffer defeat on a Liberal Democrat amendment requiring votes in the Lords and Commons on whether to hold a second referendum before Brexit is finalised after Labour last night said it would abstain.

Tory sources said Labour was giving ‘tacit support’ for another Brexit vote by failing to oppose the amendment.

Meanwhile, Labour peers will back an amendment tabled by Tory former Cabinet minister Douglas Hogg – now Viscount Hailsham – that would block the possibility of Britain leaving the EU without a deal.

Ministers have promised MPs will get a ‘take it or leave it’ vote on the final deal, which would mean if they rejected it the country would still leave – just without an agreement with Brussels.

However, the amendment would allow the Commons to decide what course of action the Government should take in the event of Parliament rejecting the draft withdrawal agreement. 

This opens the possibility that they could send ministers back to the negotiating table or even cancel Brexit.

Labour’s shadow Brexit Minister, Baroness (Dianne) Hayter said: ‘The Lords’ vote on a customs union has already charged the wider debate on this crucial aspect of our future relationship with the EU. 

‘This week, we will press for changes to the Bill that put the decision on the outcome of negotiations in the hands of Parliament not just Ministers. 

‘We will also seek to ensure there is no hard border in Northern Ireland as a result of the government’s negotiations with the EU.’

Labour’s shadow Leader of the Lords, Baroness (Angela) Smith of Basildon said: ‘We’re half-way through the voting stage but this Bill continues to be an opportunity for the Prime Minister to take a pragmatic view of how best to protect the rights of UK citizens – rather than be distracted by the ideological pursuits of some of her backbench MPs.

‘We welcome the government’s willingness to make concessions along the way but, as the first three days of Report have illustrated, we won’t be shy in giving MPs a further chance to scrutinise the detail of the Bill.’ 

But Brexit ministers in the House of Lords have warned that the amendments will harms Britain’s negotiating stance by binding the government’s hands.

Viscount Hailsham, who has tabled an amendment that would block the possibility of Britain leaving the EU without a deal

Lord Callanan, the Brexit Minister in the Lords, said: ‘This flawed amendment seeks to tie our hands by inserting false deadlines and shifting the power to negotiate from Government to Parliament. 

‘It asks for meaningless votes on the deal before the deal is done.

‘Those who want to overturn the referendum call this the ‘no Brexit’ amendment. 

‘The Conservatives are taking the scrutinising role of Parliament seriously, to improve an essential piece of legislation. Labour are using it to frustrate Brexit.’

Remain-backing peers have so far inflicted six defeats on the EU Withdrawal Bill, which proposes powers for ministers to change regulations with limited parliamentary scrutiny.

Ministers argue the powers are needed to ensure that thousands of EU regulations are transferred on to the UK’s statute book before Brexit. 

But peers are using amendments to the Bill in a bid to soften the Government’s negotiating stance, including inflicting a defeat earlier this month on the issue of leaving the customs union.

Jacob Rees-Mogg, chairman of the Tory backbench European Research Group, warned last week that peers risked voting themselves into extinction by attempting to thwart Brexit.

He said the defeats on the legislation preparing for Brexit were a case of the ‘peers against the people’ and that they ‘have to decide whether they love ermine or the EU more’.

‘They are trying to stop the largest ever public vote in our history,’ he said. ‘We are in a position of peers against the people.’ 

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