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May’s Brexit Law Faces Lords Challenge After Passing Lower House

  • Lords seek to include parliamentary vote on Brexit deal in law
  • Peers want guarantees on Euratom, Scotland, EU citizens

U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May faces a fresh challenge to a law allowing her to trigger Brexit after the opposition Labour Party said it’ll propose eight amendments when the legislation is debated in the House of Lords later this month.

Labour peers will seek to enshrine in the law a parliamentary vote on May’s final deal with her European counterparts on the terms of the country’s departure from the EU, the party said in an e-mailed statement on Thursday. While the government pledged to grant such a vote during the bill’s passage through the House of Commons, it hasn’t detailed it in the bill. Seven other amendments would cover a range of other matters, from Britain’s membership of Euratom, a nuclear cooperation agreement, to the rights of EU citizens resident in Britain.

“The Lords, as always, will challenge and scrutinize legislation put before us and if necessary we will pass amendments on issues where we wish the Commons to take another look,” Angela Smith, Labour’s leader in the Lords, said in the statement. “We will not be cowed by threats of abolition or flooding the place with hundreds of new Tory peers. The stakes are too high and we will do our duty.”

The Labour proposals are another hurdle for May as she seeks to formally trigger two years of Brexit talks by the end of March. The bill can’t become law until both houses of Parliament have approved it, so if the Lords amends it, it must return to the Commons. While some of the amendments seek only to enshrine May’s stated goals, she’s trying to avoid having her hands tied by the legislation.

The government’s 137-word bill passed through the lower chamber unscathed this week, as May marshaled her slim majority to ensure none of the more than 250 amendments proposed by opposition parties were accepted. Now, the government must negotiate passage of the law through the unelected Lords, where May’s Conservative Party is the biggest grouping but falls well short of a majority (252 out of 805 peers).

The eight amendments proposed by the Labour Lords seek:

  • A vote in Parliament on the final Brexit deal before one is held in the European Parliament.
  • Quarterly reports on progress of the negotiations
  • A guarantee for the rights of EU citizens resident in Britain
  • A requirement for the government to seek to maintain preferential trade relations with the EU as well as cooperation on security, research and environmental protection
  • Guaranteed involvement of the devolved governments of Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales
  • An impact assessment of potential future U.K.-EU trade models
  • Continued nuclear collaboration with Euratom
  • Respect for the peace process in Northern Ireland
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