Now Lords bid to scrap time limit on leaving EU: Theresa May faces fresh challenge as peers seek to keep Britain in the single market and scrap the fixed date for Brexit
- Amendment to Brexit legislation could mean leave date is not March 29, 2019
- Other amendment forces ministers to keep Britain in European Economic Area
- Boris Johnson called on upper house to respect ‘clearly mandated’ will of people
Boris Johnson yesterday called on the upper house to respect the ‘clearly mandated’ will of the people
Theresa May faces a fresh challenge today as peers seek to keep Britain in the single market and scrap the fixed date for leaving the European Union.
Labour peers will today propose an amendment to key Brexit legislation so that March 29, 2019, is no longer fixed in law as the day of departure.
A cross-party group has put down a further amendment that would force ministers to keep Britain in the European Economic Area with a Norway-style deal.
The Lords has already inflicted ten defeats on the Government at the report stage of the EU Withdrawal Bill, including removing the option of the Prime Minister walking away from Brexit talks with no deal.
Labour peers have been instructed not to back the cross-party amendment to keep Britain inside the single market, but dozens could defy the party leadership.
Diehard Remainers last night reacted with fury over the party’s refusal to support the amendment requiring the Government to negotiate EEA membership.
Labour peer Lord Alli, who is one of the signatories to the amendment, accused the party of ‘complete cowardice’ by ordering its members to abstain.
Labour MP Chuka Umunna, a supporter of the pro-EU Open Britain campaign, said staying in the single market was ‘important in avoiding a return to a hard border’ between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.
‘Given the numbers of Conservative MPs now supporting the UK continuing to participate in the EEA, Labour is looking a gift horse in the mouth,’ he said.
‘We can keep the UK in the EEA – and its protections for workers, consumers and the environment – by supporting this move.
‘We know the damage leaving the single market will do to our economy, to public services and to our NHS, so it would go against Labour’s progressive values for the party not to vote in favour of these amendments tabled by Lord Alli, a leading equalities campaigner, in the Lords.’
Labour MP Chuka Umunna, a supporter of the pro-EU Open Britain campaign, said staying in the single market was ‘important in avoiding a return to a hard border’ between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland
But Boris Johnson yesterday called on the upper house to respect the ‘clearly mandated’ will of the people.
‘Both parties campaigned to come out of the single market and customs union,’ said the Foreign Secretary. ‘It is not just the referendum but in the general election too.
‘There is a longstanding tradition in the UK that the House of Lords can under no circumstances frustrate what has been clearly mandated not just by a referendum but by the election as well.
‘Indeed, they shouldn’t frustrate it under any circumstances because they do not represent they sovereign will of the British people.’
Theresa May last week promised a ‘robust’ response when the EU Withdrawal Bill returns to the Commons.
Government ministers have accused peers of attempting to ‘thwart’ the country’s departure from the EU.
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