May Will Seek to Overturn Lords Brexit Vote for EU Nationals
EghtesadOnline: U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May will seek to overturn the first parliamentary defeat for her bill to trigger Brexit after the House of Lords rebuffed a government plea to leave it intact.
The U.K.’s unelected upper house voted by 358 votes to 256 on Wednesday in favor of an amendment to the draft law that would protect the right of European Union nationals to remain living in Britain when the country leaves the bloc, according to Bloomberg.
Securing the legal status of Europeans working in the U.K. is a critical priority for businesses that could face potential labor shortages. The government defeat is a blow to May’s authority on Brexit, and complicates her timetable for launching negotiations, but she is expected fight to overturn the result with a fresh vote in the House of Commons within days.
What happens next to the Brexit bill? https://t.co/qsWnbhF8RT
Jim O'Neill was one of the peers at the debate: pic.twitter.com/eRcklTkIna— Bloomberg Brexit (@Brexit) March 2, 2017
The Commons is set to debate the amended bill on March 13 and March 14, according to a government official who asked not to be named. That would allow May to gain royal assent and begin the start of Brexit under Article 50 of the EU’s Lisbon treaty as early as March 15. Her self-imposed deadline is March 31.
To avoid the bill being bounced back and forth between the upper and lower chambers, a process known as ping pong, May could accept defeat and agree to give the unilateral guarantee to EU migrants. But if the Commons reject the amendment, the Lords may not have the appetite to extend the fight.
Labour’s Brexit spokesman Keir Starmer said on Twitter his party, the main opposition, will back the EU citizens amendment in the Commons, where May has a slim majority. Even so, Tory rebels wary of May’s Brexit plans may not choose to make it the issue on which they defy the prime minister, the BBC reported, citing unidentified lawmakers.
Molly Meacher, who sits as an independent lawmaker in the House of Lords, told BBC Radio 4 that there are as many as 30 Tory lawmakers in the Commons who are prepared to back the amendment.
“On the basis of morality and principle” the vote can be won in the Commons, she said. Even so, “the Tory whips in the Commons are going to work extremely hard with all sorts of bribes to get these people to vote with the government.”
The premier’s next challenge will come on March 7, when the Lords completes its scrutiny of the bill. Dick Newby, leader of the Liberal Democrats in the Lords, said he expects three more amendments to be voted on next week, covering Northern Ireland, a second referendum and providing for a “substantive” vote in Parliament on May’s eventual Brexit deal.
May is seeking speedy parliamentary approval for the bill, which gives her the power to pull the trigger. Once Article 50 is invoked, formal Brexit talks begin and Britain will be on the legal path out of the EU.
While the premier has repeatedly said she wants to guarantee the rights of more than 3 million EU citizens in the U.K., she says she must at the same time receive reciprocal guarantees for Britons abroad. Critics say May is using people’s lives as negotiating capital.