Lords inflict embarrassing defeat on May government

News Desk | April 19,2018 | 12:28 pm

Members of Britain’s House of Lords have inflicted an embarrassing defeat on the government of Prime Minister Theresa May by voting against her flagship Brexit legislation, the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill, also known as the Repeal Bill.

Peers on Wednesday voted by 348 to 225 in favor of remaining in a customs union with the bloc after Brexit.  

Lords approved several amendments backing continued membership of the UK-EU customs union, and protecting people’s rights after Brexit.

The May government has argued that remaining in the customs union would bar Britain from signing third-party trade agreements with other countries.

Wednesday’s defeat is embarrassing for the government, which is trying hard to get the withdrawal bill passed from the parliament in time to prepare for Britain’s exit for the EU next year.

The Labour Party, the Liberal Democrats, crossbenchers and backbench Tories voted in favor of the amendments requiring ministers to report on steps to negotiate a continued union.

Lord Kerr of Kinlochard said that there was a need to try to “limit the damage” of Britain leaving its largest market.

“The country voted narrowly to leave the European Union, but no one can argue that it voted knowingly to leave the customs union with the European Union,” he stated.

But Brexit Minister Lord Callanan said Downing Street did not support the measures, as it would require the government to report on the steps taken towards an objective it has "clearly ruled out.”

However, Labour’s Sir Keir Starmer said the move was “an important step forward.”

"Theresa May must now listen to the growing chorus of voices who are urging her to drop her redline on a customs union and rethink her approach,” he added.

Liberal Democrat leader in the House of Lords, Lord Newby, said: “This is a hugely significant moment; the House of Lords has come together to show the government that remaining in a customs union is key to the UK’s future prosperity.”

“Securing this win on a cross-party basis rams home how out of touch the government have been on this issue, and that they drastically need to change tack from the destructive hard Brexit they are pursuing.”

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