14:16, April 23 259 0 theguardian.com

2018-04-23 14:16:05
Theresa May suffers third Brexit defeat in Lords

The House of Lords handed the government its third defeat over Brexit in less than a week, voting down plans to exclude European Union rights from national law before Britain leaves.

An opposition-backed amendment to the legislation, on which the government suffered two defeats last week, was backed by 316 to 245, a majority of 71.

The defeat on Monday is one of several Theresa May’s government is expected to face in the Lords as parliament debates legislation that will enact Britain’s exit from the EU in March next year, but the votes, while embarrassing for the Tories, can be overturned by the House of Commons.

The defeat – over ensuring the political, social and economic rights protected by the European charter of fundamental rights are replicated in British law – follows a vote by the Lords that challenged May’s plan to leave the customs union, which increased pressure on the prime minister to reconsider.

David Pannick, the author of Monday’s amendment, told fellow peers he feared the government was doing away with the charter because ministers might want to dilute its protections. “I fear that the government is seeking to make an exception for rights under the charter because the government is suspicious of the very concept of fundamental rights,” he told peers.

Arguing against the amendment, Richard Keen said retaining the charter would open up Britain to being influenced by “foreign law” that could to lead to “constitutional outrage”.

The government says the charter’s rights are already covered by British law.

May’s spokesman said earlier on Monday the EU withdrawal bill was the best way of providing “the smoothest possible Brexit”.