Boris Johnson's Brexit deal defeated in Lords for fifth time

22 January 2020, 05:27

The PM's deal was defeated in the Lords
The PM's deal was defeated in the Lords. Picture: PA
EJ Ward

By EJ Ward

Members of the House of Lords seem to be on a collision course with the Government after Boris Johnson's Brexit deal suffered its fifth defeat in the upper chamber.

In a Commons clobbering, Peers have backed two extra amendments to the Government's European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill.

MPs will consider amendments to the Prime Minister’s Brexit deal after the Government was defeated five times by defiant peers.

This follows three defeats on Monday on the rights of EU workers legally residing in the UK to have physical proof of their right to remain and the power of courts to depart from European Court of Justice rulings.

In the latest reverses today, the Government was heavily defeated as peers backed a move to ensure the rights of unaccompanied child refugees to be reunited with their families in the UK post-Brexit.

Voting was 300 to 220, majority 80, in a fourth defeat for the Prime Minister in just 24 hours.

Later, the Government suffered a fifth as peers narrowly backed a move underlining the commitment to the so-called Sewel Convention, which states that the UK Parliament "will not normally" legislate for devolved matters without the consent of the devolved legislature affected.

Voting on this Opposition-led amendment was 239 to 235, majority four.

With Brexit day fast approaching, the Bill, which was passed with big majorities by MPs, will have to return to the Commons for further scrutiny tomorrow if it is to be passed by January 31.

The Prime Minister looks certain to overturn all the defeats using his 80-strong majority.

It will then be up to peers to decide whether to prolong the bout of parliamentary ping-pong or bow to the will of the elected House, which seems the most likely.

Labour, Liberal Democrat and independent crossbench peers ignored repeated ministerial warnings not to amend the Bill, insisting their objection was not to stop Brexit but to ensure the legislation was better drafted.

Labour's Lord Dubs led the bid to restore the right of unaccompanied child refugees in the EU to be reunited with their families in the UK after Brexit, suggesting his amendment would help disprove accusations that the Tories were the "mean and nasty" party.

The Labour peer, who fled the Nazis as a child on the Kindertransport, urged ministers not to use the small number of children involved as "bargaining chips" in negotiations.

He said the Government was seeking to delete earlier protections for child refugees in the EU (Withdrawal) Act 2018 but it was a simple matter of humanity to retain them.

Home Office minister Baroness Williams of Trafford urged peers not to press the issue to a vote.

Lady Williams said the Conservatives' record of the last 10 years clearly demonstrated a commitment to protecting vulnerable children and this would continue.

The Prime Minister's official spokesman told reporters: "We are disappointed that the Lords has chosen to amend the Withdrawal Agreement Bill after the Commons passed it unamended.

"We will seek to overturn this amendment as the Bill returns to the Commons."