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Peers set to remove Brexit date from Withdrawal Bill in fresh blow for Theresa May

Peers set to remove Brexit date from Withdrawal Bill in fresh blow for Theresa May

Emilio Casalicchio

2 min read

Peers are set to wipe the Brexit date from the Government's flagship EU bill in yet another blow for Theresa May.


A cross-party amendment to the EU Withdrawal Bill ensuring the negotiation deadline with Brussels can be extended is set to pass this afternoon after securing the backing of peers from across the political divide.

The move would be a major blow for the Prime Minister, after she insisted that 29 March 2019 be included on the face of the legislation as it was considered by MPs.

A separate amendment allowing the UK to mimic laws made in Brussels and stay inside EU agencies in the future is also set to pass - bringing the total number of government defeats in the Lords to 11.

In November, the Government dramatically announced plans to write the Brexit date into the bill, as Theresa May warned MPs not to “slow down or stop the process”.

But she was left humiliated after a looming Commons defeat forced ministers to water down the plans and accept it could be changed by MPs if the 27 remaining EU states agree.

The amendment in the Lords however would scrub the date entirely from the bill - making it even easier to extend the two-year Article 50 negotiations if parliament sees fit.

It is being spearheaded by Tory peer the Duke of Wellington, Labour peer Baroness Hayter, Lib Dem peer Lord Newby and Crossbencher Lord Hannay.

Baroness Hayter told PoliticsHome the amendment would give the UK "greater flexibility" in how it quits the EU.

"Introduced during the Commons stages of the Bill, and driven no doubt by political PR, putting such a definitive deadline into law could have a negative impact on the final round of negotiations," she said.

And she added: "There is nothing to stop Ministers coming forward with late concessions.

"Failing that, and as we’ve seen over the past few weeks, peers won’t be shy in giving MPs further opportunities to scrutinise the fine detail of this Bill.”

A Government source suggested defeat was all-but inevitable since the Tories do not have a majority in the Upper Chamber.

Among the defeats already inflicted on the Government are amendments to keep the UK in a customs union with the EU and to keep open the Irish border.

There will also be scope for defeats at the Third Reading in the Lords, when peers will debate environmental protections after Brexit.

The amendments will then go back to the Commons for MPs to accept or reject - amid concerns peers have emboldened pro-Remain MPs to rebel against the Government.

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