The UK government criticised the upper house of parliament over its vote to hand parliament powers to block or even delay Brexit, saying the move would tie the government’s hands in negotiations with the European Union.
An amendment to the EU Withdrawal Bill giving MPs the power to prevent the UK from leaving without a deal, or make the Prime Minister return to negotiations, was approved by 335 votes to 244
The amendment was sponsored by a cross-party group of peers including former Conservative cabinet minister Douglas Hogg, Labour’s Dianne Hayter, William Wallace of the Liberal Democrats, and David Hannay, an independent.
It was seventh of nine defeats in the last two weeks for the government, which says the EU withdrawal bill is purely a technical document to “copy and paste” EU law into British law and guarantee a smooth Brexit.
The defeat was described by Bloomberg as “yet another headache for May”, coming just 24 hours after Home Secretary Amber Rudd resigned amid the row over immigration targets.
At a meeting of May’s top cabinet ministers, the prime minister and her Brexit secretary, David Davis, led the expressions of disappointment over the Lords’ vote.
“Cabinet expressed its strong disappointment at the defeats inflicted on the EU withdrawal bill in the House of Lords, saying they risked tying the government’s hands behind its back in negotiations with Brussels,” May’s spokesman told reporters.
“The prime minister said when the bill returns to the House of Commons, the government will be robust. She said it was vital to ensure the legislation is able to deliver the smooth Brexit which is in the interests of everybody in the United Kingdom.”
He declined to comment directly on whether the government would try to overturn the amendment which, if passed by the lower house, would allow parliament to send ministers back to the negotiating table in Brussels or halt the Brexit process.
“As for individual amendments, we have said we will look at those and discuss those in due course,” the spokesman said, adding that if the government’s hands were tied in the talks, “that’s not something we believe is in the UK’s interest”.
The government has said parliament will get a vote on any final deal with the EU, but only to “take it or leave it”. Some peers in the House of Lords, and lawmakers in the lower house, want parliament to be given a bigger say in the process.
Earlier, May’s trade minister, Liam Fox, accused the unelected peers in the upper house of “trying to block the democratic will of the British people”.