Tom Goodenough

What the papers say: Would the Lords dare block Brexit?

What the papers say: Would the Lords dare block Brexit?
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Theresa May’s Brexit timetable is on track after MPs overwhelming backed the Government’s Article 50 bill in the Commons last night. Not everyone is happy with the role that Parliament has played so far in holding ministers’ feet to the fire over Brexit though. In its editorial this morning, the Guardian says MPs failed their first test: ‘Too many MPs genuflected’ to the referendum outcome - a result which the paper describes as one of the worst political decisions in the UK since the second world war. It seems as though the referendum took away Parliament’s power - and not even the ‘heroic efforts’ of Gina Miller in winning her case in the Supreme Court have helped get it back - the paper says. So what next? All is not lost, says the Guardian. ‘Procedural concessions’ have been made by the Government on what kind of say Parliament will now have on the process of Brexit. This is clearly a welcome step. While ‘MPs have also made it clear that they expect the existing rights of EU citizens to live in the UK to be an inalienable part of any final deal’. And for all the failings of the last week, MPs will still have a chance over the coming months and years to stand up for their views. The Guardian concludes by suggesting Remain-minded MPs should take a leaf out of the ‘Eurosceptics’ book - and ’relearn the practicalities of using their power as effectively’ as John Major’s famous bastards once did.

This attitude is nonsense, says the Daily Telegraph. Despite the hopes of some ‘Remainers’ that MPs could block Brexit, politicians have seen sense and realised the ‘logic’ of the view that the referendum result must be implemented. Now the bill passes to the House of Lords. As the Telegraph points out, it’s the first time ever that a Tory Government hasn’t had a majority there. Despite the temptation of some in the Lords to block Brexit - particularly among the ‘coalition of more than 250 Lib Dems and Labour peers’ - the upper chamber must resist the urge to get in the way of Theresa May’s timetable. The paper goes on to warn of the dire consequences of failing to do so, echoing the Government source who told the BBC that there would be ‘overwhelming’ calls for reform if the Lords blocked Brexit. ‘To spring an ambush or pass a wrecking amendment would be an abuse of its position,’ says the Telegraph, which says the only precedent for such a moment would be 1911 - after which the Parliament Act was implemented to prevent a repeat. The paper ends its editorial by urging peers to listen to the ‘wise counsel’ of the likes of ‘Lord Fowler, the Lords Speaker’ who is ‘adamant that the Upper House must not stand in the way of Brexit’.

The Sun agrees. If the Lords dares try and disrupt this bill now that it has passed through the Commons, it should ‘stand as the last hurrah for the unelected chamber’. After all, the referendum result was ‘clear. So, too, was the decision of MPs in backing the Article 50 bill with such a big majority. Given all this, what happens next should be simple: ‘Peers must now rubber-stamp the will of the people and their elected MPs’. But an obvious outcome like this isn’t guaranteed. After all, the Sun points out, the Lords is ‘stuffed with second-rate Labour and Lib Dem Remainers with no electors to fear’. So if peers do try and prevaricate, ‘the Government’s retaliation must be severe’, says the Sun.