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Wed, 21 October 2020

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Blow for Boris Johnson as government loses three Lords votes on flagship Brexit Bill

Blow for Boris Johnson as government loses three Lords votes on flagship Brexit Bill
3 min read

Boris Johnson has suffered a major blow after peers inflicted three defeats on the Government's flagship Brexit Bill.

The House of Lords defied the Prime Minister by passing three amendments to the Withdrawal Agreement Bill, which will bring the UK's exit from the EU on 31 January into law.

And the Government is braced for another loss on Tuesday, when peers are expected to back a fourth amendment in the name of Lord Dubs calling on ministers to allow refugee children to settle with family members in the UK.

However, the Commons - where the Conservatives have an 80-seat majority - will have the chance to overturn all of the amendments when the WAB returns there on Wednesday.

Peers inflicted Mr Johnson's first parliamentary defeat since being re-elected last month by voting 270-229 in favour of calls to give EU citizens physical proof of their right to stay in the UK after Brexit.

Supporters of the amendment said European citizens needed documentary evidence to show to landlords, employers or others in positions of authority that they have the legal right to live in the UK.

But the Government said physical proof was unnecessary and rejected their demands.

Lib Dem peer Lord Oates, one of those behind the move, said: "This really is not a complicated issue. There are millions of EU, EEA (European Economic Area) and Swiss national citizens who are desperately concerned and who are asking for physical proof.

"We have a system of permanent residency in this country for non-EU citizens. One of them, my husband, has in his passport a Home Office sticker which gives him permanent leave to remain. That is physical proof.

"We just need the same scheme. But the complication about having a system where there is no physical proof is that landlords, employers or others who may be used to having that physical proof may well not accept or find it diffcult to deal with people who don't."

 Labour peer Lord McNnicol said: "The Government has made a rod for its own back on this non-contentious issue, when it should have been listening to the sensible solutions from around the House of Lords.

"I hope ministers take this defeat on the chin and find a way of accommodating our amendment to give people the reassurance they need."

The Government's second defeat came when peers voted 241-205 to remove ministers' power to decide by secondary legislation which courts and tribunals can depart from judgments of the European Court of Justice.

Remarkably, the third defeat was on an amendment by Tory peer Lord Mackay which would allow procedure to be initiated in any UK court and result in authoritative decision without any interference with the independence of judiciary.

Despite the government defeats, the WAB is expected to receive Royal Assent on Thursday, paving the way for the UK to leave the EU at the end of the month.



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