Government vows to overturn Lords defeat as eurosceptics rail against peers over Article 50

Posted On: 
2nd March 2017

Ministers have vowed to overturn a defeat in the House of Lords after peers overwhelmingly backed calls to guarantee the rights of EU citizens to remain in the UK after Brexit.

The Government reportedly is targeting the 15 March for triggering Article 50
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Peers voted by 358 to 256 in favour of a Labour-led cross-party amendment to the EU (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill giving the Prime Minister the authority to trigger Article 50.

The Government was “disappointed” by the vote but made clear that their position has not changed on the issue of EU citizens, and that Theresa May’s timetable for triggering Article 50 would not be derailed.

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A government source said ministers were determined to pass the “simple bill”, and reverse the Lords’ amendment when the legislation heads back to the Commons.

“The intention is to seek to overturn this in the House of Commons,” the source added.

A spokesman for the Department for Exiting the EU said: "We are disappointed the Lords have chosen to amend a bill that the Commons passed without amendment. The Bill has a straightforward purpose - to enact the referendum result and allow the government to get on with the negotiations.

“Our position on EU nationals has repeatedly been made clear. We want to guarantee the rights of EU citizens who are already living in Britain, and the rights of British nationals living in other member states, as early as we can."

Mrs May has insisted that no guarantees on EU citizens’ right to remain post-Brexit should be granted without equivalent assurances for Britons living abroad in other EU member states.

The Prime Minister has pledged to invoke Article 50 before the end of March. The Government reportedly plans to invoke the Brexit process on 15 March.

Seven Tory peers rebelled and backed the amendment last night.


Meanwhile senior Tory eurosceptics have railed against the decision by peers to amend the Article 50 bill.

Former Conservative leader Iain Duncan Smith told the Daily Telegraph: “It is a bit of posturing by some people in the Lords who are beating their chests and puffing out their own sense of self-importance.

“My answer to that is ‘jolly good, nice to hear from you, but it has no bearing on Theresa May’s Article 50 negotiations’. “It speaks volumes about who some of these people in the Lords think they are and absolutely nothing about Brexit.”

Former Tory minister John Penrose said: “The Commons voted decisively that the rights of Brits abroad are just as important as the rights of EU nationals living here.

“People will find it hard to understand why the unelected House of Lords thinks that is wrong.”

Former chancellor Lord Lamont told the Telegraph: “I think they are doing a disservice to the national interest. You shouldn’t be imposing conditions [on the Government]…

“I hope that it will be rejected by the Commons and sent back here. If that is not the end of the matter I think the Lords will be playing with fire.”

And senior Tory MP Sir Bill Cash said it was “outrageous” that peers had “undermined” the vote in the House of Commons, where the Article 50 bill was passed unamended.


The amendment backed last night by peers, proposed by Labour peer Baroness Hayter, requires ministers to introduce proposals within three months of Article 50 being triggered to ensure EU citizens in Britain have the same residence rights after Brexit.

Lib Dem Baroness Ludford, who also put her name to the amendment, told peers yesterday: “The Government is not holding EU citizens here as hostage and a bargaining chip for British citizens in the rest of the EU, but for other goals and it is disingenuous to inflame the fears of British people settled elsewhere in Europe that their case will be undermined by a unilateral move by the British government."

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said on Twitter that the Government must “do the decent thing” and guarantee the rights of EU citizens living in the UK.

Shadow Brexit Secretary Sir Keir Starmer said: "This is a really welcome and important step forward. For months Labour has been urging the Prime Minister to end unnecessary uncertainty for EU citizens in the UK, and I am delighted our colleagues in the Lords have sent this clear message to the Prime Minister."

Read our full report of last night’s vote here.