Lords fail to stop Brexit – early 2018

Prime Minister Theresa May got her withdrawal bill passed virtually unchanged in early 2018, winning every vote in the House of Commons, rejecting amendments proposed by the upper House of Lords.

Only a month earlier in January, the House of Lords ended three months of detailed examination of the withdrawal bill with defeats to the government in 15 major votes  – votes that showed the deep divisions in both Conservative and Labour ranks over what deal the UK should seek in negotiations with the EU.

The Lords amendment on the meaningful vote would have allowed Parliament, not just cabinet ministers, a potentially decisive say over Brexit – power to stop the UK from leaving the EU without a deal or make Theresa May return to negotiations.
This amendment was approved by 335 votes to 244, fleshing out an earlier House of Commons vote in December forcing the government to guarantee Parliament a meaningful vote.

The Lords also challenged the government and members of the House of Commons with amendments for the UK to remain in a customs union with the EU and in a form of the single market, the European Economic Area.

Hard-line Brexiters saw either one as a betrayal of the close 2016 referendum vote to leave the EU.

Business voices had called for the closest possible alignment with EU rules to avoid severe harm to the economy; and the Irish government and the EU were sticking to their demands on the Irish border as was Northern Ireland’s DUP which had been providing the Conservative government with a tiny voting majority. 

When the Lords began second-reading examination at the end of January one of the biggest concerns of opponents in both the opposition and governing party was what they saw as an attempted power grab by the May cabinet – giving themselves powers to avoid parliamentary scrutiny and use the legislation to weaken or destroy employment, environmental, equality and human rights protections.

The Conservatives had the largest number of Lords but no majority and can be outvoted by opponents.

As the unelected Lords handed them defeat after defeat, the Tory right and its supporters in the national press ramped up attacks on the bastion of conservatism and the establishment they had historically defended and protected.

The Lords began examining the bill after the House of Commons voted to approve it 324 to 295 on January 18 2018, four months after narrowly voting to allow more debate on it. The vote was 326 to 290.

The UK and EU began historic talks on June 19 2017 over British plans to leave the EU.
Lords end detailed examination
Government defeated in 15 major votes
Lords amendment on meaningful vote
House of Commons on meaningful vote
Brexit press on the Lords
How the Lords became right-wing whipping boy
Commons approves withdrawal bill
Politico on Brexit
The Guardian on Brexit
Brexit talks begin – Politico 2017
Brexit talks begin – Bloomberg 2017