The government’s controversial Brexit bill suffered late Monday evening (November 9th) in a humiliating vote in the House of Lords.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Brexit legislation has been criticized by peers when they voted to strip down powers that would allow ministers to break international law.
Former Conservative Party leader Lord Howard von Lympne urged Mr Johnson to “think again” and remove the controversial parts of the UK’s Internal Market Act.
Lord Howard warned that the government uses “lawbreakers” language throughout the bill.
Bipartisan amendments were tabled by the votes to remove clauses related to the most controversial part of the bill, namely the fifth part.
It gives ministers the power to breach the Brexit divorce deal brokered with Brussels last year, known as the withdrawal agreement.
After a discussion evening, the House of Lords voted 433 to 165 votes – a majority of 268 – to delete section 42 – one of the controversial clauses – and section 43 was deleted without a vote.
This was the first of two expected votes that removed the relevant sections of Part 5.
In order to protect relations between the Ministers of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, powers are required to override the withdrawal agreement.
However, critics argue that the powers are not necessary.
Baroness Angela Smith, Labor leader in the House of Lords, said in a statement: “I am certain that some government officials will initially respond with flying colors and seek to reject the historic voices of today’s Lords.
“However, that would underestimate the real and serious concerns across the UK and beyond that ministers are going beyond the rule of law.
“The government should make sense, accept the repeal of these offensive clauses and begin to rebuild our international reputation.”
After the vote, the department list showed that a total of 44 Conservative peers rebelled and decided to vote to remove one of the disputed sections.
The rebels included former party leader Lord Howard, former Brexit minister Lord Bridges of Headley and former Whip chief Lord Young of Cookham.
Opponents of Clause 42 of the bill also included nine bishops, 115 independent crossbenchers, 156 Labor colleagues and 81 Liberal Democrats.
Peers inflicted another defeat on the government by 407 to 148 votes – 259 majority – removing another controversial clause related to the Northern Ireland Protocol.
All other controversial provisions were deleted without a vote.
Following the vote, a government spokesman said: “We are disappointed that the House of Lords voted to remove clauses from the UK Single Market Act, which the House of Commons supported 340 to 256 and which provides a clear Conservative manifesto of commitment.
“We will withdraw these clauses when the bill returns to the Commons.
“We have made it clear over and over that the clauses provide a legal safety net to protect the integrity of the UK internal market and the tremendous benefits of the peace process.
“We expect the House of Lords to recognize that we have an obligation to the people of Northern Ireland to ensure that they continue to have unrestricted access to Britain in all circumstances.”