Tom Goodenough

Can May’s Brexit stance survive its latest Lords defeat?

Can May's Brexit stance survive its latest Lords defeat?
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Another day, another Brexit defeat in the House of Lords for the Government. This time around, peers have voted to back an amendment to the Brexit bill which would hand Parliament, rather than ministers, the power to decide what to do if MPs reject the final deal agreed with Brussels. The margin in today’s vote was considerable: 335 to 224. But more worrying for the Government is the number of times it has been now been defeated in the Lords on Brexit, with this afternoon's vote marking the seventh time peers have gone against the Government on the issue. Among those who backed the amendment were 19 Tory lords, including 11 former ministers. The names of those who rebelled are no surprise. But make no mistake: this vote will worry ministers. It also adds to the picture of a Government embattled on a number of fronts, not least on Brexit. 

Labour, already riding high in the wake of Amber Rudd’s resignation yesterday, is determined to use this defeat to add to Theresa May's problems. Keir Starmer has called the vote a “hugely significant moment”, and has told the Prime Minister to bow down and accept that there is no appetite for a no deal Brexit. 

So will Theresa May's 'No deal is better than a bad deal' stance hold? It seems likely for now, with the Government determined to fight this one out. Indeed, when this amendment does return to the Commons, they will likely succeed in overcoming it. In a sense, this means that, in practical terms, today's vote counts for little. But symbolically it is of great importance. The number of amendments being pinged back to the Commons makes it harder and harder for Theresa May to stick to her guns on Brexit. What's more, this latest defeat could embolden Tory rebels in the Commons, whose support the Government badly needs in upcoming Brexit legislative battles. Even a strong Government with a healthy majority might well be feeling the heat. For one without a majority, it is clear that these are testing times indeed.