Rebels all round as Lords vote to stay in single market

Sergio Conner
May 9, 2018

A cross-party group has put down a further amendment that would force ministers to keep Britain in the European Economic Area with a Norway-style deal.

On another Brexit-related vote last week, the government was defeated, granting power to parliament, not the PM, to decide what the United Kingdom should do if negotiations fail to produce an agreeable deal.

After Tuesday's sixth and final debate at the "report stage" of the bill in the Lords, it will have a so-called third reading on May 16.

Labour MP Chuka Umunna, who had lobbied for peers to support all three amendments through his role with pro-Europe campaign group Open Britain, said: "This is a stunning victory for those who want to protect jobs and trade and keep our businesses linked to our biggest market". A total of 17 Conservatives defied the Government by supporting the amendment.

"I hope that the Labour front bench will support United Kingdom membership of the single market through the EEA, which is what the overwhelming majority of our members and voters want", Umunna added.

"This will not deliver on the British people's desire as expressed in the referendum to have more direct control over decisions that affect their daily lives".

Newby, who was one of four peers who tabled the amendment, said: "It was frankly ridiculous to enshrine this date in law from the get-go".

Lords earlier backed a cross-party amendment to the EU Withdrawal Bill - to remove the Brexit date of 29 March 2019 from the legislation - by 311 votes to 233, a majority of 78.

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Under Brexit legislation, exit day is now defined as 29 March 2019 at 11pm - although that is to be challenged in the House of Lords.

That stance has widened divisions not only within her own Conservative Party but also across both houses of parliament, which like Britons at large, remain deeply split over the best way to leave the European Union after more than four decades of membership.

The vote by 245 to 218, a majority of 27, came in defiance of both the government and Labour frontbenches.

Former Conservative minister Stephen Hammond said: "It allows you to have some conversations over new regulation, in that you are consulted and are part of the process before it comes in, though it's still not co-determination, of course".

Labour's Brexit spokesman Baroness Hayter said scrapping the exit date would "make the task easier for negotiators".

The government has proposed retaining membership of some European Union agencies for medicine, chemicals and aviation while leaving others after Brexit.

He told his fellow peers the amendment was "constructive" and aimed to "give some idea as to what sort of milk and honey might lie over the mountain once we have negotiated the wilderness journey".

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