Peers in the House of Lords have defeated the government in voting to give Parliament a decisive say over Brexit.
Last night an amendment to the EU Withdrawal Bill was passed giving MPs the power to stop the UK from leaving without a deal, or to make Theresa May return to negotiations. It was approved 335 votes to 244 with 19 rebel Tory Peers voting against the Government.
The amendment has been slammed as a “wreckers amendment” as it would allow Remainers to reverse the referendum result from June 2016. The Government has said that the amendment would completely undermine the entire Brexit process:
“What this amendment would do is weaken the UK’s hand in the Brexit negotiations by giving parliament unprecedented powers to instruct the government to do anything in regards to the negotiations, including trying to keep the UK in the EU indefinitely.”
By passing these amendments, the House of Lords mat now find itself in a dangerous position, that is pitching itself against a democratic referendum by the people, for the people.
Speaking in the House of Lords yesterday, Lord Dobbs urged his fellow peers not to go down the path of peers v people:
“There are those in this House – decent people, principled people – who hate the idea of leaving the EU. And I understand those feelings but there are also those in this House who have vowed to do what they possibly can to destroy Brexit and that, my Lords, is not a matter of principle, but a matter of abuse of privilege.”
But it appears as though his advice fell upon deaf ears. Lord Adonis, a leader in the campaign for a second referendum, took the slightly astonishing path of likening the UK’s decision to leave the European Union to the Alfred Hitchcock horror film, Psycho. Adonis likened March 29 2019, when the UK will leave the EU, to the iconic scene with Janet Leigh being murdered in the shower. Lord Adonis then went on to say that the only way to have a truly democratic process is by a Parliamentary Debate on the deal when Theresa May presents it to Parliament in Autumn.
This argument is still not convincing Brexiteers, who maintain that they went to the polls in June 2016 with the clear understanding that there would only be one vote and that the Government would be bound by the decision. It is possible that such comments may even make Brexit more divisive, as Lord Adonis continues to adopt a condescending tone towards those who voted for Brexit.
The Government must now try and persuade MPs to strike out the change.
But the damage holds far deeper wounds for the House of Lords than it does for the Government. Having unelected peers frustrate the will of the people and not allow Brexit to occur will only increase the divides that we have seen permeate Britain since the referendum. The Lords is of course there to scrutinise what the Government does but that does not give it the right to overturn the most historic referendum in British history.