Labour and Lib Dem members of the upper house promised a deluge of amendments to delay the legislation needed to give the Prime Minister power to activate the European Union’s Article 50 departure clause.
Their bid to tamper with the Government’s EU (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill is expected to lead to a stand-off between the Lords and the Commons that could upset her schedule of triggering the start of Brexit talks by the end of next month.
A string of peers including Lord Newby, the Lib Dem’s leader in the Lords and Labour frontbencher Baroness Chakrabarti yesterday threatened to amend the Bill when Parliament returns from a half-term break on February 20.
Peers have planned an attack on Theresa May's Brexit bill
One potential ambush is expected to include an attempt to force the Lords to vote on whether EU migrants already living in Britain should have their right to stay guaranteed.
Commons Leader David Lidington urged peers to respect the overwhelming backing for the Brexit legislation expressed by MPs.
He said: “I hope at the end of the day they will accept that as an unelected chamber they should in the end agree that the will of the British electorate as a whole and the view of the House of Commons overwhelmingly, should be accepted by them.”
Baroness Chakrabarti has warned she could amend the Bill when Parliament in back in session
Mr Lidington hoped the Bill would be on the statute book by mid-March, allowing Mrs May to trigger Article 50 by the end of the month.
Passing these amendments does not delay the process for a second
His prediction dashed hopes from some Eurosceptics that the Prime Minister will formally request the triggering of Article 50 at a summit of EU leaders in Brussels on March 9.
Former Tory chancellor Lord Lamont feared peers were tabling amendments in order to scupper the Government’s negotiations.
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He said: “I think a lot of the amendments that are put forward are really designed to obstruct the Bill and everybody knows that if the Bill is delayed that will scupper the whole negotiation.
Theresa May wants to trigger Article 50 by the end of March
“I’m not saying that’s Lord Newby’s motive but I think it’s the motive of some of the people coming forward with these amendments – it’s to get embroiled in a time wasting, time delaying exercise.”
He said any perceived blocking by the upper house would cause outrage and could prompt calls for reform.
Senior Tory MP Oliver Letwin, a former minister, said: will of the British people, which the people expressed in a referendum and which the Commons expressed in an overwhelming vote.
Government Loses Brexit Vote Appeal
Tue, January 24, 2017
Britain's most senior judges ruled that Prime Minister Theresa May does not have the power to trigger the formal process Article 50 for the UK's exit from the European Union without Parliament having a say.
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Issued by the Supreme Court of (top row, from the left) Lord Neuberger, Lord Mance, Lord Kerr, Lord Sumption, (bottom row, from the left) Lady Hale, Lord Clarke, Lord Wilson and Lord Hodge, who agreed with the majority decision that the Government could not trigger Article 50 without Parliamentary approval.
“The matter is now signed and sealed and should now be settled and not derailed by the House of Lords.”
Lord Newby claimed the amendments would not stop the Prime Minister triggering Article 50 within her timetable.
He added: “If you take the amendments we are going to be pressing they don’t have that effect at all.
Lord Newby has argued that any amendments should not affect Mrs May triggering Article 50
“Passing these amendments does not delay the process for a second.” Labour peer Baroness Smith also argued that Lords amendment would “improve” the Brexit Bill without wrecking the legislation.
She said: “We’ve got amendments down, we’ve got eight down from the Labour Party, we’ll look at those.