Lords vote to guarantee rights of EU nationals

A packed House of Lord PA Wire

A packed House of Lord PA Wire - Credit: PA

Theresa May's Article 50 game-plan was dealt a blow by Lords after it amended the plan to start negotiations on leaving the EU at the end of this month.

Ignoring stern warnings not to amend the Brexit Bill, peers backed a Labour-led move to guarantee the rights of EU nationals living in the UK by a majority of 102.

The defeat means the Bill, which was passed unamended by the Commons, will now have to return there for further consideration by MPs.

It could delay Mrs's May's timetable for triggering Article 50, which she plans to do by the end of March.

Labour, Liberal Democrats and crossbench peers called for ministers within three months of triggering Article 50 to bring forward proposals ensuring the rights of EU citizens living here continue post-Brexit.

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It also saw Tory splits. Former minister Viscount Hailsham urged the Government to move unilaterally and peers to take the 'high moral ground' by backing the amendment.

But Tory former Cabinet minister Lord Tebbit sparked jeers when he said the debate seemed to focus on 'nothing but the rights of foreigners'.

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Tory former chancellor Lord Lawson of Blaby said that with a home in France he would have liked to see the Government give an 'unconditional assurance' to EU citizens living here.

But he said he could not agree with the amendment because it had 'no place in this Bill whatever'.

Lord Lawson said there was no chance of Parliament approving the expulsion of EU citizens legally resident here - 'so there is no danger whatever to EU citizens resident in the UK'.

For the Liberal Democrats Baroness Ludford said: 'The Government ought to accept that the weight of opinion is in favour of that unilateral guarantee which will then trigger similar rights for Britons abroad.'

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