Belfast Telegraph

Peers inflict heavy defeat on government over flagship bill

By Richard Wheeler

Peers have inflicted a double defeat on the Government over flagship Brexit legislation, amid claims they are attempting to prevent the UK leaving the EU.

Labour, the Liberal Democrats, crossbenchers and backbench Tories formed an alliance over amendments to the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill, with one seeking to retain the option of a customs union with the EU and the other to protect people’s rights post-Brexit.

When one of the customs union amendments was pushed to a vote, peers voted overwhelmingly in favour by 348 votes to 225 — a majority of 123 — with another, linked amendment approved unopposed.

The House of Lords Library reported the 573 peers involved in the vote was the seventh largest turnout ever in the chamber’s history, and included a sizeable Tory rebellion.

A total of 24 of the party’s peers supported the amendment, including former cabinet ministers Lord Heseltine, Lord Lansley and former minister Lord Willetts.

Alliance Brexit spokesperson Stephen Farry MLA described the result as “an encouraging step in avoiding a hard border”.

“The creation of a customs union with the EU is one of the key elements in achieving a softer version of Brexit and protecting key elements of the UK economy, including food production and manufacturing. This approach has been advocated across the business community, including by the CBI,” he said.

“For us in Northern Ireland, this would be a necessary but sufficient element to avoiding any new borders either across the island or down the Irish Sea.

“As Brexit talks continue in a critical phase, the Irish dimension remains the key outstanding issue in finalising a withdrawal agreement.”

Belfast Telegraph

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