The House of Lords has, for the first time, voted by a large majority to disrupt aspects of Theresa May’s Brexit plans. Yesterday a total of 358 peers (vs. 256) passed an amendment declaring that they are not happy to accept the government’s Brexit proposals unless the rights of EU nationals living in the UK are respected.
In the UK, Parliament is split into two chambers: the House of Commons and the House of Lords. The former is an elected body where May’s Government has the majority of representatives, whereas the latter is an unelected body where no such majority exists. It is thus the job of the House of Lords to scrutinize the legislation proposed by the Government before it is allowed to pass.
One key policy of the EU is the freedom of movement, meaning that there are as many as 3,000,000 EU nationals currently residing in the UK without having become full UK citizens. With Brexit looming, the rights of these EU nationals to stay in the UK has been threatened by the Government who have not explicitly guaranteed that those who currently reside in the UK will be able to continue to do so. The House of Lords sought yesterday to protect those people, demanding through an amendment that their rights be secured before Article 50 is triggered and Brexit proceeds.
It does remain possible for the House of Commons to overturn this amendment and proceed with Brexit as planned as the bill is now passed back into their hands. However, for the time being, the issue has become one of debate again thanks to the peers who voted against the government.