Government facing rebellion as Brexit bill heads for defeat as it returns to the Lords

Andy Wells
Freelance Writer
The EU Withdrawal Bill is heading back to the House of Lords (Rex)

Theresa May is facing another parliamentary defeat over Brexit as the EU Withdrawal Bill returns to the House of Lords today.

Peers are set to vote against the Government to bring in an amendment that would give MPs a ‘meaningful vote’ on the deal offered by Brussels.

The vote would give the Commons the power to reject a no deal Brexit, and could see backbenchers send ministers back to the negotiating table if the offer doesn’t meet their expectations.

The Lords have already approved a similar amendment, which the Commons later removed, as the bill ping-ponged between the houses.

Here’s the lowdown on the divisions…

The House of Lords are likely to send amendments back to the Commons (Rex)

What is the EU (Withdrawal) Bill?

The bill is the Conservative Government’s flagship piece of Brexit legislation. It will eventually transpose EU law into the UK statute book.

The legislation has passed through both houses already as Lords and MPs struggle to come to an agreement on the final state of the bill.

The Government was defeated 15 times by the Lords, who voted through a number of amendments, although all of these except for one were then removed again in the Commons.

The PM avoided a mayor rebellion by MPs last week on the issue of a meaningful vote by offering significant concessions to pro-EU rebels.

However she was later seen to backtrack on her promises, infuriating wayward backbenchers including Dominic Grieve. Mr Grieve has now tabled a new amendment via Viscount Hailsham, consisting of compromise amendment he said he agreed with Theresa May last week.

One of the amendments gives MPs the power to reject the final Brexit deal agreed between the Government and the EU (Rex)

What is going to happen today in the House of Lords?

Peers are likely to vote through the new amendment. After a debate, the vote will take place at around 6.30pm.

Dominic Grieve said rebels could potentially bring down the Government (PA)

Is the Government going to be defeated?

In terms of the House of Lords, the Government will more than likely face a fresh headache. When the bill goes back (again) to the Commons this week, the outcome is less predictable. While there are anti-Brexit rebels who want a meaningful vote on the final deal, some may still vote with the Prime Minister over fears a defeat could threaten her leadership, and possibly bring down the Government altogether.

Mr Grieve himself said yesterday warned that the Tory rebels he leads could ‘collapse’ the Government if they disagree with the final outcome of withdrawal talks and had the right to a proper say on Brexit.

However, Labour has its own splits, with Leave-supporting opposition MPs shoring up the numbers for the Government in Brexit votes.

Theresa May is facing fresh defeat over the bill (Rex)

What does all this mean for Brexit?

A meaningful vote amendment would essentially take the ‘no deal’ option off the table. With the Government forced to give MPs a vote on the final outcome, it is highly unlikely they would vote to leave the EU without any deal in place. This would potentially stop Brexit in its tracks, with Remainers likely to argue that either a second referendum would be needed or Brexit should simply be blocked altogether.

All the key events leading up to Brexit in 2019

What happens next?

Other key pieces of Brexit legislation are still to be negotiated over the coming months, including the trade bill, where the Government could be defeated over the issue of membership of the customs union.

Talks on the transition period and the single market are also set to go ahead, with more votes causing fresh headaches for the Government. Any outstanding issues must be resolved at an EU summit in December, and the withdrawal treaty must be improved by February 2019 – one month before Britain finally leaves the EU.