LONDON (Reuters) - Ministers criticised the upper house of parliament on Tuesday over its vote to hand parliament powers to block or even delay Brexit, saying the move would tie the government’s hands in negotiations with the European Union.
The House of Lords voted overwhelmingly on Monday in favour of an amendment to Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit blueprint, or the EU withdrawal bill, to offer what some peers said was a truly “meaningful vote” on any final deal.
It was seventh of nine defeats in the last two weeks for the government, which says the EU withdrawal bill is purely a technical document to “copy and paste” EU law into British law and guarantee a smooth Brexit.
At a meeting of May’s top cabinet ministers, the prime minister and her Brexit secretary, David Davis, led the expressions of disappointment over the Lords’ vote.
“Cabinet expressed its strong disappointment at the defeats inflicted on the EU withdrawal bill in the House of Lords, saying they risked tying the government’s hands behind its back in negotiations with Brussels,” May’s spokesman told reporters.
“The prime minister said when the bill returns to the House of Commons, the government will be robust. She said it was vital to ensure the legislation is able to deliver the smooth Brexit which is in the interests of everybody in the United Kingdom.”
He declined to comment directly on whether the government would try to overturn the amendment which, if passed by the lower house, would allow parliament to send ministers back to the negotiating table in Brussels or halt the Brexit process.
“As for individual amendments, we have said we will look at those and discuss those in due course,” the spokesman said, adding that if the government’s hands were tied in the talks, “that’s not something we believe is in the UK’s interest”.
The government has said parliament will get a vote on any final deal with the EU, but only to “take it or leave it”. Some peers in the House of Lords, and lawmakers in the lower house, want parliament to be given a bigger say in the process.
Earlier, May’s trade minister, Liam Fox, accused the unelected peers in the upper house of “trying to block the democratic will of the British people”.
Reporting by Elizabeth Piper; editing by Stephen Addison