THE House of Lords has voted in favour of amending the Brexit bill in order to guarantee the rights of EU citizens after the UK exits the bloc.
This is Theresa May’s first parliamentary defeat over Brexit, and it came after three hours of heated debate.
The cross-party opposition, which included a number of Conservative ministers, accused the government of using EU citizens as ‘bargaining chips’ when they have the ‘moral right’ to ensure their rights after Brexit.
Pro-Brexit ministers on the other hand, argued that the issue was a priority for the government but should be part of negotiations with the EU to guarantee reciprocal treatment of British expatriates.
Peers voted to amend the bill, with a majority of 102.
The government said it was “disappointed” with the result but would seek to overturn the defeat when the amendment goes back to the House of Commons.
This may result in delays to triggering Article 50, which will initiate the formal Brexit process, as the bill bounces between the Houses, but it is believed the Lords will eventually back down.
The Department for Exiting the EU said: “The bill has a straightforward purpose – to enact the referendum result and allow the government to get on with negotiations.”
Theresa May could face a second defeat, and further delays, when peers vote on an amendment to guarantee a parliamentary vote on the final Brexit deal.