Brexit focus moves to the Lords
The House of Lords is under threat as an institution if it tries to stifle the Brexit process. Source: Flickr
UK MPs voted overwhelmingly to approve the European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill after around 40 hours of debate and nine suggested amendments were rejected by MPs.
Having cleared the House of Commons without any amendments with 494 MPs in support and 122 against, the bill to trigger Article 50 to leave the EU now passes to the House of Lords.
The government does not have a majority in the unelected Lords but Labour peers say they will examine, not block, the bill.
The Liberal Democrats, which has just nine lower house MPs, are fighting to guarantee a second referendum on the final deal, protect single market membership and guarantee the rights of EU citizens living in the UK. The party has 102 peers, compared with 253 Conservatives, out of 805 in total.
The bill is expected to pass through the Lords by March 7 and then return to the Commons, where MPs will debate whether to keep the Lords’ changes or remove them.
This procedure, known as “ping-pong”, would mean the bill being sent between the two chambers until an agreement is reached on the wording.
On February 20 and February 21 the Lords debate the bill during its second reading and MPs vote at the end of the debate. Peers are expected to vote through legislation.
On February 27 members of the House of Lords debate the legislation in the first of two days in the committee stages. Numerous amendment attempts are expected.
On March 7, if passed without amendments, the bill can receive royal approval. If not it goes back to the Lower House for MPs to agree the changes.
On March 8 finance minister Philip Hammond presents his budget and on March 9 and 10 Prime Minister Theresa May meets EU leaders at the European Council in Brussels when she could formally trigger Article 50.
Otherwise from March 13 to 15 the government in the House of Commons might attempt to overturn Lords’ amendments to the bill.
Members in both houses will be aware that appearing to frustrate the legislative process would risk accusations that they are going against the will of the people. The fact the legislation passed through the elected Commons without amendment weakens Lords’ hands.
Tim Farron, the Liberal Democrat leader, said the party would continue demanding a second referendum on the final Brexit deal in the Lords, which would weaken the government’s position in talks with Brussels.
“[This] vote isn’t the end of the process. Over the next few weeks, Liberal Democrats in the House of Lords will seek to make changes to the government’s plans,” the MP said.
“Our goal will be to protect Britain’s membership of the single market, protect the rights of EU citizens in the UK and to give the people the final say on Theresa May’s deal.”