Boom! Lords land serious blow to government on single market

Peers in the House of Lords

Peers in the House of Lords - Credit: PA Wire/PA Images

Peers have inflicted another three major defeats on the government asking for more changes to the Brexit Bill – and demanding the UK retains key aspects of the single market.

In a 'stunning victory' for Remainers the House of Lords backed retaining elements of the single market by continued participation in the European Economic Area.

The vote by 245 to 218, a majority of 27, came in defiance of both the government and Labour frontbenches.

Anti-Brexit Labour MP Chuka Umunna, also a leading supporter of the People's Vote campaign, said: 'This is a stunning victory for those who want to protect jobs and trade and keep our businesses linked to our biggest market.

'And it also marks a decisive vote in favour of protecting the Good Friday Agreement and the Irish peace process.

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'Now it will be for the Commons to decide. I hope that the Labour front bench will support UK membership of the single market through the EEA, which is what the overwhelming majority of our members and voters want. We simply cannot aid and abet this hard, destructive Brexit.'

There are now 13 key issues the Commons will have to decide whether to reverse thanks to the House of Lords.

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In the first defeat for ministers on the sixth and final report stage debate on the EU (Withdrawal) Bill, peers backed a move to allow Britain's continued participation in EU agencies.

The cross-party amendment, approved by 298 votes to 227, majority 71, will also ensure future EU laws can be replicated on the UK statute book.

Peers quickly inflicted a further defeat on the government by voting to remove the Brexit date of March 29, 2019, from the Bill.

Voting for this cross-party amendment, spearheaded by the Conservative Duke of Wellington, was 311 to 233, majority 78.

The duke said he was trying to help the government by giving ministers greater flexibility in negotiations and not to 'thwart the process'.

The aim was to revert to the original wording of the Bill, he said. The government's decision to amend it in the Commons by adding the date had been unnecessary.

'We know beyond any doubt that for the purposes of this Bill we leave the EU on March 29, 2019. But this date should not be defined and specified... in case it becomes necessary and in the national interest to agree an extension as provided in Article 50.'

He added: 'We should give ministers a bit more flexibility to secure and obtain ratification of the best possible deal, which will do the least damage to the economy and the national interest.'

Analysis of the division lists showed there were 14 Tory rebels on the first amendment and 10 on the second, including former deputy prime minister Lord Heseltine and former Cabinet minister Lord Patten of Barnes.

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