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Tuesday 1 May 2018

Yet another damaging amendment has been heaped onto the EU Withdrawal Bill

Yesterday evening saw yet another vote in the House of Lords go against the referendum, a familiar tale of an amendment added to that pack mule of Brexit betrayal, the EU Withdrawal Bill passing by a worryingly large majority, 335 to 244. Amendment 49 calls for “Parliamentary approval of the outcome of negotiations with the European Union” and bars the government from withdrawing from the EU without an act of Parliament before 29 March 2019, Britain’s departure date. The key lines are inserted below:

Parliamentary approval

Her Majesty’s Government may implement a withdrawal agreement only if Parliament has approved the withdrawal agreement and any transitional measures agreed within or alongside it by an Act of Parliament.

Control of the process in the event Parliament rejects the government’s initial negotiation

…Her Majesty’s Government must follow any direction in relation to the negotiations under Article 50(2) of the Treaty on European Union which has been—(a) approved by a resolution of the House of Commons, and(b) subject to the consideration of a motion in the House of Lords.

Most galling of all, Viscount Hailsham of moat maintenance notoriety during the expenses scandal, was the amendment’s sponsor. After stepping down as an MP in 2009, Hailsham (aka Douglas Hogg) accepted David Cameron’s offer of a life peerage. He’s now in the Upper Chamber disrupting our destiny.

Like his fellow Brexit saboteurs, in his opening address, Hogg tried to disguise his ploy as an act of democratic expediency:

“Whatever the outcome, terms or no terms, this country’s future should be determined by Parliament, ultimately by the House of Commons, and not by Ministers. In a parliamentary democracy, that is what ought to be meant by a meaningful vote.”

But Hogg’s words were mild compared to those of his Remainer peers. Standing out for particular naming and shaming was Lord Roberts who sickeningly, not to mention inexplicably, likened Theresa May’s pledge to honour the referendum result with Adolf Hitler’s evil authoritarianism:

“Are we learning the lessons of history?…We remember the reluctance of Mrs May to allow Parliament to be involved…My mind went back to Berlin in March 1933 when the democratic right from the Parliament [was placed] into the hands of one man – that was the Chancellor, and his name was Adolf Hitler.” Words cannot describe.

Brexit minister Steve Baker described Lord Roberts’ remarks as “disgraceful, irresponsible…over the top nonsense” adding the comparison showed “how moribund [Remainer] arguments are.”

Could have been worse

The government has now suffered seven defeats via the EU Withdrawal Bill, and it could have been more. Amendment 50, obliging the government to put to Parliament a vote towards a second referendum failed, but by an alarmingly thin margin, 202 to 260.

Like the Customs Union vote two weeks ago, this Lords amendment will have to pass scrutiny in the Commons to make it into the final act. We have little cause for optimism however. MPs are not inclined to spurn the chance for more powers, particularly when it comes to this House of Commons and Brexit.