The government’s Brexit bill suffered a second defeat in the House of Lords yesterday, after peers passed an amendment for a “meaningful” parliamentary vote on any final EU deal.
Ministers vowed to overturn the amendment, which passed by 366 votes to 268, when the bill returns to the Commons this month.
Last week the House of Lords voted for an amendment that guarantees the rights of EU citizens living in the UK, which the government also plans to strike down.
Lord Heseltine was amongst of group of 13 Tory peers to rebel against the government’s plan to give MPs a “take it or leave it” vote on the final deal.
Instead the House of Lords voted by a majority of 98 for an amendment that gives both MPs and Peers a vote to approve any deal before it is offered to the EU, including a decision to take the country out of Europe with no deal at all.
Heseltine said: “The future of this country is inextricably interwoven with our European friends.
“It’s the duty of Parliament to assert its sovereignty in determining the legacy we leave to new generations of young people.”
Crossbencher Lord Pannick spoke in favour of the amendment during the debate, saying that Parliament had a duty to scrutinise the Brexit proceedings and have some control over them.
He said: “It must be for Parliament to decide whether to prefer no deal or the deal offered by the EU.
“It will guarantee that the government must come back to both Houses and seek approval for the result of negotiations.”
Commenting on the defeat, Brexit secretary David Davis said the House of Lords was impeding the government’s aim of starting the negotiations as soon as possible.
However Labour’s Baroness Smith said that parliamentary sovereignty had been a key factor in the decision to leave the EU and that it was right the Parliament should have the “final say” on the negotiations.
Former Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg said MPs should vote in favour of the amendment when it returns to the Commons.
He said: “I would urge MPs of all parties, including Brexiteers who campaigned to leave on the basis of parliamentary sovereignty, to stop Parliament being neutered.
“Parliament has a long history of ratifying treaties. What is the government scared of? If they cannot bring back a deal they are prepared to put before MPs, then it cannot be a deal that is good enough for Britain.”