Robert Harneis – TDO -As predicted here, the House of Lords, the unelected British second chamber, yesterday voted by 366 to 268 in favor of an amendment to the European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill. The amendment calls for parliament to be given a 'meaningful' vote on the final exit deal negotiated with the EU.
It also calls for parliament’s vote on the final deal to take place early enough in the process to be able to require the government to renegotiate with the EU. The vote hands government their second defeat on the Article 50 Bill, after peers last week voted in favor of guaranteeing the rights of EU nationals in the UK.
The Secretary for Exiting the EU, David Davis, said yesterday’s vote was “disappointing,” adding, “It is clear that some in the Lords would seek to frustrate the Article 50 process, and it is the government’s intention to ensure that does not happen. We will now aim to overturn these amendments in the House of Commons.”
Meanwhile, as a warning to potential rebels in the House of Commons, Lord Heseltine was sacked from his government advisory roles following his rebellion on yesterday’s amendment for a meaningful vote. Lord Heseltine said, “This is entirely the right of the Prime Minister and I’m sorry that the expertise which I have put at the Government’s disposal over the last six years has now come to an end.” On the amendment, he said, this “secures in law the government’s commitment to ensure parliament is the custodian of our national sovereignty.”
The government will have been encouraged by the rejection by 336 votes to 131 of a Liberal Democrat amendment that called for a further referendum on the final Brexit deal. The British political class seems to be of the view that one referendum is quite enough for the time being.
Meanwhile, in a report released yesterday, the House of Lords constitutional committee has recommended “limiting the scope of the delegated powers granted [to the government] under the Great Repeal Bill” and “putting in place processes to ensure that parliament has on-going control over the exercise of those powers.”
Signaling government willingness to avoid controversy over EU students and residents, a spokesperson for the Home Office yesterday said, “EU citizens will not be removed from the UK or refused entry solely because they do not have comprehensive sickness insurance.” This comes amid concern that EU students would have to produce proof of private health insurance, as well as five years residence and education in the UK, to qualify for UK residency. The Home Office has insisted that the comprehensive sickness insurance requirement is “just a technicality.”