London (AFP) – Prime Minister Theresa May received another Brexit blow on Monday when Britain’s upper House of Lords voted for a measure to retain a key European Union human rights charter.
The peers voted 316 to 245 in favour of the latest amendment to government legislation currently making its way through parliament, having delivered two stinging defeats last week.
Monday’s amendment would see Britain keep the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, going against government plans to scrap it.
Peer David Pannick argued that rights for children, the elderly and the disabled would be hit if the charter was dumped.
But crossbench peer Ruth Deech said the retention of the charter “would be a Trojan horse with a tapeworm in its intestines, because its interpretation would depend on the ongoing, never-ending, twisting and turning judgments” of the European Court of Justice.
The EU Withdrawal Bill sets the legal framework for Britain’s exit from the bloc on March 29 next year, but faces an arduous battle in being approved by both Houses of Parliament, whose members predominantly oppose Brexit.
The unelected Lord’s last week voted on an amendment that throws into doubt May’s plans to leave the EU’s customs union, setting the stage for a fresh round of parliamentary battles over her strategy.
The amendment requires ministers to explain the steps taken to negotiate Britain’s continued participation in a customs union with Brussels.
Any changes to the bill will return to the elected House of Commons for debate, likely in May, when pro-European members of the ruling Conservative party will have to decide whether to make a stand.
The EU Withdrawal Bill debate will inform the biggest battle over Brexit, expected in October or November, when lawmakers vote on the final deal negotiated with Brussels.
Lawmakers will have to decide whether to back the government or reject the agreement — with the risk that Britain could crash out of the EU next year without any deal in place.