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Brexit Bill delayed as Lords back EU nationals' rights

Britain’s upper parliamentary house has voted for a change to Theresa May's Brexit plan, demanding the protection of EU citizens’ rights

2 March 2017, 8:41am
The House of Lords defied Prime Minister Theresa May by demanding guarantees for EU nationals living in Britain, delaying a Bill she needs to start Brexit negotiations
The House of Lords defied Prime Minister Theresa May by demanding guarantees for EU nationals living in Britain, delaying a Bill she needs to start Brexit negotiations
Britain's upper parliamentary house voted on Wednesday to amend and thereby delay a Bill empowering Prime Minister Theresa May to begin Brexit negotiations, demanding guarantees for EU nationals living in Britain.

In a major defeat for the government, the House of Lords voted by 358 to 256 for an amendment requiring ministers to protect the rights of more than three million European citizens after Britain leaves the bloc. The change requires the government to publish proposals on how to protect EU citizens currently living in Britain within three months of triggering the Brexit process defined by Article 50 of the EU's Lisbon Treaty.

The change means the European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill must return to the lower House of Commons for deliberation, delaying final approval just weeks ahead of May's deadline for starting Brexit negotiations by the end of this month.

Wednesday’s defeat was orchestrated by the opposition Labour Party and the Liberal Democrats.

“Labour believe that EU nationals should not be used as bargaining chips in Brexit negotiations,” said the party’s Brexit spokesman Keir Starmer.

“There is a growing consensus that this must be resolved before Article 50 is triggered, and the Prime Minister is now increasingly isolated.”

While May has said she wants to guarantee EU citizens’ rights, she has not been prepared to do so until other member states agreed a reciprocal deal.

“We are disappointed the Lords have chosen to amend a Bill that the Commons passed without amendment,” a spokeswoman for the Brexit department said in a statement.

However, government sources said May would fight to overturn the defeat when the changes are presented to the lower house of parliament, where her party has a majority.