Brexit: UK House of Lords votes to let parliament block ′no deal′ | Europe| News and current affairs from around the continent | DW | 30.04.2018
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Brexit: UK House of Lords votes to let parliament block 'no deal'

The UK House of Lords has voted for an amendment allowing parliament to send ministers back to the Brexit negotiation table. The change, a government defeat, would provide an alternative to crashing out of the EU.

Britain's upper legislative chamber, the House of Lords, on Monday handed the government another defeat by voting to let parliament block a "no-deal" Brexit, if the proposed terms of the country's exit from the EU are not acceptable to lawmakers.

The Lords voted for an amendment giving parliament the right to decide on a next course of action, should members vote down the deal negotiated by the government.

  • The Lords voted by 335 to 244 for parliament to have the final say on the outcome, including the possibility of staying in the bloc if lawmakers are unhappy with the final agreement.
  • The motion was an amendment to a bill passed by the elected House of Commons, and the bill will now return to the lower house.
  • Prime Minister Theresa May's Conservative government has said it will fight the motion when it returns to the Commons.
  • Should parliament reject the terms of the deal without the amendment, lawmakers would be under pressure to accept them anyway, or risk legal uncertainty and significant damage to Britain's economy by crashing out of EU institutions.
  • Although May's Conservatives have a working majority with the Northern Irish Democratic Unionist Party, it is a very narrow one.

Constitutional crisis?

A spokesperson for the prime minister said the amendment would give parliament too much sway. "What this amendment would do is weaken the UK's hand in our Brexit negotiations by giving parliament unprecedented powers to instruct the government to do anything with regard to the negotiations, including trying to keep the UK in the EU indefinitely."

Read more: Would Margaret Thatcher be in favor of Brexit?

Former Conservative Party leader Michael Howard warned that, if the amendment gained assent, it "could and very probably would lead to not one but several constitutional crises."

Dianne Hayter, the opposition Labour Party's Brexit spokeswoman, disagreed. "This is not ... about creating a constitutional crisis, nor is it about asking the Commons [the lower house] to take on the negotiations ... it is to ask the Commons and parliament to decide whether the outcome of the negotiations is good enough."

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Work in progress

The government has promised lawmakers they will be able to have a "meaningful vote" on the deal, ahead of Britain's planned departure from the EU at the end of March 2019.

Read more: Opinion: Brexit – a year wasted

An interim deal was struck in December on the three main areas regarded as a Brexit priority for the EU: citizens' rights, the Irish border and Britain's financial settlement.

Britain has negotiated a transition deal that would see little change for UK firms in their dealings with Europe until after December 2020. This would depend on the UK and EU reaching an agreement on the terms of future trading relations. It's thought this won't be settled until October.

The vote came on the day that the EU's chief negotiator Michel Barnier warned that the talks were "at risk" because of disagreements over the future of the Irish border.

The defeat is the seventh in recent weeks for the government in the Lords on legislation to allow Britain's exit from the EU.

rc/rt (AFP, Reuters)

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