On Wednesday evening the House of Lords voted overwhelmingly in favour of an amendment to the Government’s Brexit Bill to safeguard the rights of EU citizens’ already living in Britain, post-Brexit. The Lords defied ministers by a voting majority of 358 to 256, following a heated debate in the Lords during which the Government was accused of treating EU citizens like bargaining chips. Labour’s Brexit spokesperson in the House of Lords told the Government, “you can’t do negotiations with people’s futures”.
The amendment requires the Government to introduce proposals to protect EU citizens’ rights to remain in the UK after Brexit within three months of Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty being triggered. The amendment was proposed by Labour peers and was supported by the Liberal Democrats. Seven Conservative peers defied their party to vote in favour of the amendment.
The Government was said to be disappointed by the defeat, but ministers have made it clear their position on the issue will not change. Peers will next week debate and vote on another amendment to the Bill – to ensure Parliament is given a “meaningful vote” on the Government’s final Brexit deal – following which the Bill will have to return to the House of Commons for further consideration by MPs. When the Bill returns to the Commons, MPs will be able to reject the changes made to the Bill, however such a rejection will mean the Bill must return to the Lords for further consideration. Such a delay will put the Prime Minister’s aim of invoking Article 50 by the end of March at risk.