Liam Fox accuses unelected peers of trying to ‘block the democratic will of the people’ after huge vote to axe ministers’ right to walk out of talks
- Peers voted 335 to 244 for plan to let Parliament send ministers back to Brussels
- Trade Secretary Liam Fox branded it an attempt to ‘thwart’ the referendum vote
- PM’s official spokesman said the changes would bind PM’s hands in Brexit talks
- He accused peers of overstepping their powers by overturning the Brexit vote
Liam Fox today accused unelected peers of trying to ‘block the democratic will of the people’ after the latest huge vote against Government Brexit plans.
The House of Lords last night voted 335 to 244 for a wrecking amendment that would remove the right of ministers to walk out of Brexit talks if only offered a bad deal.
Dr Fox claimed the amendment was an attempt to overturn the referendum result.
MPs are likely to be ordered to delete the offending amendment when the legislation returns to the Commons in the coming weeks.
But Brexiteers fear Tory rebels could join forces with the Opposition to tie ministers’ hands as the new amendment is an evolution of one the Commons has already passed.
Liam Fox (pictured on Sky News today) has accused unelected peers of trying to ‘block the democratic will of the people’ after the latest huge vote against Government Brexit plans
The International Trade Secretary told Sky News: ‘Now we have the unelected house actually trying to block the democratic will of the British people.
‘This is a question about whether the will of the British people will be respected or not, and it must be.’
Asked by the BBC if Theresa May was now ‘horribly weakened’ he said: ‘We don’t have a parliamentary majority, that’s for sure.
‘That makes life harder.’
Last night’s major amendment to the flagship Brexit laws going through Parliament radically strengthens the so-called ‘meaningful vote’ on the final deal.
Tabled by Viscount Hailsham – better known as the former MP Douglas Hogg, infamous for expense claims to clean his moat – it will remove the right of ministers to quit Brexit talks without a deal and hand the decision to Parliament instead.
Later the Government suffered another defeat when peers voted 270 to 233 to back plans giving Parliament a say on Britain’s mandate for Brexit talks.
Viscount Hailsham – better known as the former MP Douglas Hogg, infamous for expense claims to clean his moat – said voters could not have made a final decision on Brexit without knowing the terms of the deal
He has secured support for a major amendment to the flagship Brexit laws going through Parliament that would radically strengthen the so-called ‘meaningful vote’ on the final deal
Former Tory leader Lord Michael Howard told the Lords the rebel amendment demonstrated the ‘appalling lengths’ Remain backers would go to frustrate the referendum vote
Viscount Hailsham was joined in the lobby by 18 other Tory rebels including ex ministers Michael Heseltine, Ros Altmann and David Willetts.
Following last night’s vote, Brexit Minister Lord Callanan said the Government was ‘disappointed’ and would now consider the implications of the vote.
He said: ‘What this amendment would do is weaken the UK’s hand in our negotiations with the EU 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.
‘It is absolutely right that Parliament is able to scrutinise the final deal, and that is why we have already committed to giving both Houses a vote on the final deal.
Shadow Brexit Secretary Sir Keir Starmer hailed the vote as a crucial moment in the wrestle for control over Brexit between Parliament and ministers.
He said: ‘Labour won the argument at the end of last year for Parliament to be given a meaningful vote on the terms of our withdrawal from the EU. And we are clear that it must be just that: a meaningful vote.
‘If Parliament votes down the Article 50 deal, then Parliament must decide what happens next.
‘Under no circumstances can the Prime Minister be given a blank cheque to crash the UK out of the EU without a deal.’
Opening the debate, Lord Hailsham said: ‘At the very best it was an interim decision.
‘It was an instruction to the Government to negotiate withdrawal on the best terms that could be achieved.
‘A final and conclusive decision can only be made when these options have crystallised.’
Lib Dem Lord Roberts (left) compared the legislation to that empowering Hitler, remarks that prompted Brexiteer Tory Lord Fairfax to attack a ‘cabal of Remainers’ in the Lords
Lord Roberts told peers: ‘My mind went back to Berlin in March 1933, when the Enabling Bill was passed in the Reichstag.
‘That Enabling Bill transferred democratic rights of the parliament into the hands of one man, that was the Chancellor. His name was Adolf Hitler.
‘Perhaps I’m seeing threats that do not exist, but they are there, they are possible. Who’d have said before the 1930s that Germany, this cultured country, would involve itself in such a terrible war.’
Lord Hailsham said Parliament – led by MPs – must be able to decide whether to accept no deal, send ministers back to renegotiate, order a new referendum or even stay in the EU on the current terms.
Former Tory leader Lord Michael Howard told the Lords the rebel amendment demonstrated the ‘appalling lengths’ Remain backers would go to frustrate the referendum vote.
Conservative Lord Fairfax branded the Lords a ‘cosy cabal of Remain’ and attacker Remain supporters as ‘fifth columnists’ as he lashed the wrecking amendment.
Ahead of today’s vote, Mrs May’s spokesman said: ‘Fundamentally, the British people voted to leave the EU and the Government is delivering on that.
‘It is simply not right that Parliament could overturn this.
‘It is absolutely right that Parliament is able to scrutinise the final deal, and that is why we have already committed to giving both houses a vote on the final deal.’
Theresa May (pictured at a school near Manchester yesterday) lashed out at unelected peers who are trying to ‘overturn’ the will of the British people with a series of Brexit Bill wrecking amendments
Later the Government suffered another defeat on the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill after peers backed plans to give Parliament a say on Britain’s mandate for Brexit talks.
An amendment led by Labour’s Lord Monks and supported by a cross-party group of peers was supported by 270 votes to 233, majority 37.
Brexit minister Lord Callanan said it was for the Government rather than Parliament to set the mandate for negotiations over the UK’s future relationship with the EU.
However, Labour indicated it was supporting the amendment, which would require parliamentary approval for this mandate.
Responding to the Government’s second defeat on Monday, on parliamentary approval for the UK’s negotiating mandate, a spokesman for the Department for Exiting the European Union said: ‘We are disappointed that the House of Lords has voted for this amendment in spite of the assurances we have provided.
‘Parliament has been updated regularly throughout the negotiations and we have already committed to giving both the House of Commons and the House of Lords a vote on the withdrawal agreement and the terms of our future relationship with the EU.
‘But it is for the Government, not Parliament, to set our goals for the negotiations on the UK’s exit from the EU and to conduct them.
‘We will now consider the implications of this decision.’
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