House of Lords vote overwhelmingly in favour of guaranteeing rights of EU citizens living in UK before negotiations begin

The House of Lords embarrassed Theresa May last night by voting overwhelmingly in favour of an amendment to her Brexit bill that guarantees the rights of European nationals residing in the UK.

A clear majority voted for the amendment, which would protect the rights of EU citizens living in Britain before the negotiations begin, with 358 peers voting for and 256 voting against.

Jeremy Corbyn described the result as “great news”.

He said: “The government must now do the decent thing and guarantee the rights of EU citizens living in the UK.”

Shadow Brexit secretary, Keir Starmer, said the vote was a “welcome and important step forward.”

He said: “Labour believe that EU nationals should not be used as bargaining chips in Brexit negotiations. There is a growing consensus that this must be resolved before Article 50 is triggered, and the Prime Minister is now increasingly isolated.”

May’s position was also criticised by members of her own party, with Tory peer Viscount Haisham saying that refusing EU citizens their rights “offends natural justice.”

He said: “The moral high ground is very often the best ground on which to fight a campaign.

“Let us all remember how shocked we were when Idi Amin expelled the Asians from Uganda, so shocked that we offered them refuge in this country.”

The bill is expected to go back to the Commons for another vote on March 13 and 14, before the government aims to trigger Article 50 on March 15.

Tory MPs would need to defy their whips and to join with opposition members to pass the amendment, which crossbencher Baroness Meacher believes could happen.

She told the BBC: “We understand there are 30 Tories who are saying they will vote to support this amendment.

“Obviously the Tory whips in the Commons are going to work extremely hard with all sorts of bribes to get these people to vote with the government.

“I believe it can be won in the Commons on the basis of morality and principle.”

A spokesperson for the Department for Exiting the European Union 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.”