Theresa May was likened to Adolf Hitler last night as peers handed the Government another defeat over Brexit.
The House of Lords voted to give Parliament the power to force ministers to reopen talks if MPs reject Mrs May’s deal with Brussels.
Nineteen rebel Tories backed the amendment, which was passed by 335 votes to 244. If it is not overturned by the Commons, Mrs May will lose the option of walking away with no deal –potentially meaning Britain may never leave the EU at all.
Lord Roberts of Llandudno, a Lib Dem peer, claimed during the debate that the UK could follow the path of Nazi Germany unless the Prime Minister’s powers were curtailed.
The House of Lords voted to give Parliament the power to force ministers to reopen talks if MPs reject Mrs May’s deal with Brussels
But a Conservative peer said the House of Lords had become a ‘cosy cabal of Remain’ – tying the Government’s hands in a bid to block Brexit.
Fellow Tory Viscount Hailsham had argued the Brexit referendum was ‘an interim decision’. And crossbench peer Lord Bilimoria, the who founded Cobra beer, boasted: ‘Thanks to this amendment, Parliament would have the ability to stop the train crash that is Brexit.’
The debate came ahead of tomorrow’s crucial Brexit ‘war cabinet’ meeting over the EU customs union. Eurosceptics fear that staying in any partnership with Brussels will hamper Britain’s ability to strike future trade deals.
Yesterday’s amendment to the Government’s flagship Brexit legislation gives MPs the power to decide what ministers should do – including ordering them to hold fresh negotiations with the EU – if the Commons votes against the final Brexit deal.
Lord Bilimoria Crossbench speaking during Lords debate on EU withdrawl
Former Cabinet ministers Lord Heseltine, Lord Patten, Lord Deben (formerly John Gummer) and Lord Willetts were among 19 Tory peers to vote against the Government. Whitehall sources said it was the ‘most dangerous’ attempt yet to derail Brexit.
Amid fierce exchanges in the Upper House, Lord Roberts provoked fury by comparing Mrs May’s control over Brexit negotiations to the rule of Adolf Hitler.
The Methodist minister and former president of the Welsh Liberal Democrats told peers: ‘We remember the reluctance of Mrs May to allow Parliament to be involved. She wanted the Government to be in charge.
Lord Roberts of Llandudno (pictured) claimed during the debate that the UK could follow the path of Nazi Germany unless the Prime Minister’s powers were curtailed
‘My mind went back to Berlin in March 1933 when the enabling Bill was passed in the Reichstag, which transferred the democratic right from the Parliament into the hands of one man – that was the Chancellor, and his name was Adolf Hitler. Perhaps I am seeing threats that do not exist, but they are possible. Who would have thought before the 1930s that Germany, such a cultured country, would involve itself in such a terrible war?
‘Let us take the warning. What we are doing here must involve Parliament. I would like to see it involving the people as well, but it must certainly be in other hands.
‘We cannot let an enabling act of the United Kingdom possibly lead to the catastrophe that took place in Berlin in 1933.’
Brexit minister Steve Baker denounced the ‘irresponsible’ remarks. ‘This disgraceful rhetoric does Lord Roberts no favours,’ he said. ‘This legislation is an essential mechanism for delivering a smooth and orderly Brexit and ensuring our legal order functions.
Lord Bilimoria Crossbench speaking during Lords debate on EU withdrawl
‘The over-the-top nonsense spouted by its opponents demonstrates how moribund their arguments are.’
During the Lords debate yesterday, Viscount Hailsham, formerly Douglas Hogg, proposed the amendment, argued that the Brexit referendum, in which 17.4million people voted for Brexit, was at ‘very best an interim decision’.
The Tory ex-Cabinet minister said: ‘This country’s future should be determined by Parliament, ultimately by the House of Commons, and not by ministers.’
Lord Deben, former environment secretary, was one of the 19 Tories who voted to strip Theresa May of ability to walk away from EU with no deal
Lord Green of Hurstpierpoint, chief executive and then chairman of HSBC and former business minister
Viscount Hailsham said under the amendment MPs could ‘accept that the country should leave the EU, determine that the country should stay in the EU on the existing terms, or request further negotiations’.
Lord Newby, the Lib Dem leader in the Lords, said the Government’s defeat on the issue ‘puts Parliament in the driving seat’.
Ahead of the debate, Lord Heseltine, the Conservative former deputy prime minister, told Radio 4’s The World At One: ‘My present position is that the chances are that Brexit will happen, but it is not a certainty and it is becoming less certain by the week.’
The debate came ahead of tomorrow’s crucial Brexit ‘war cabinet’ meeting over the EU customs union. Pictured: Duke of Wellington
Eurosceptics fear that staying in any partnership with Brussels will hamper Britain’s ability to strike future trade deals. Pictured: Baroness McIntosh
But fellow Conservative peer Lord Fairfax of Cameron described the Lords as ‘a cosy cabal of Remain’. He added: ‘This is a wrecking amendment. It is designed to delay, frustrate and ultimately block Brexit.’
Those who supported it were ‘playing the role of a fifth column’ for the EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier, he argued, adding: ‘They are doing his job for him’.
Former Conservative leader Lord Howard said he was astonished that an amendment had been put forward ‘which could and very probably would lead to not one but several constitutional crises’.
Yesterday’s amendment to the Government’s flagship Brexit legislation gives MPs the power to decide what ministers should do – including ordering them to hold fresh negotiations with the EU. Pictured: Baroness Wheatcroft
Whitehall sources said it was the ‘most dangerous’ attempt yet to derail Brexit. Pictured: Lord Willets
He added: ‘This new clause is thoroughly and fundamentally misconceived. I am afraid it illustrates the appalling lengths to which the diehard Remainers are prepared to go to achieve their aim.’
The Brexit-backing Green Party peer Jenny Jones said she had come to the House of Lords prepared to vote for the amendment on the basis of parliamentary sovereignty, but said she had been put off by the speeches of pro-Remain peers.
‘Quite honestly, the speeches in favour have turned me against them,’ she said.
Amid fierce exchanges in the Upper House, Lord Roberts provoked fury by comparing Mrs May’s control over Brexit negotiations to the rule of Adolf Hitler. Pictured: Lord Heseltine
Following the defeat, Lord Callanan, who is the Brexit minister in the Lords, said: ‘What this amendment would do is weaken the UK’s hand in our negotiations with the EU by giving Parliament unprecedented powers to instruct the Government to do anything with regard to the negotiations – including trying to keep the UK in the EU indefinitely.’
The Government suffered a second legislative defeat yesterday after peers backed plans to give Parliament a say on the mandate for Brexit talks.
In a third defeat, they voted to keep existing measures for child refugees in Europe. It is the ninth defeat for the Government at the bill’s report stage in the Lords overall. The bill will return to the Commons, where MPs could vote to overturn the changes.
Another amendment to give MPs and Lords the right to call a second referendum was defeated.
The Government suffered a second legislative defeat yesterday after peers backed plans to give Parliament a say on the mandate for Brexit talks. Pictured: Lord Tugendhat
In a third defeat, they voted to keep existing measures for child refugees in Europe. Pictured: Baroness Altmann
THE 19 TORIES WHO JOINED THE REBELLION
- Baroness Altmann, former pensions minister
- Lord Arbuthnot of Edrom, former defence minister
- Lord Bowness, former Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe parliamentary assembly vice president
- Lord Cooper of Windrush, David Cameron’s former pollster
- Lord Cormack, shadow constitutional affairs minister
- Lord Deben, former environment secretary
- Lord Green of Hurstpierpoint, former business minister
- Viscount Hailsham, former agriculture secretary
- Lord Heseltine, former deputy prime minister
- Lord Inglewood, former tourism minister and MEP
- Lord Kirkhope of Harrogate, former home office minister and MEP
- Baroness McIntosh of Pickering, former shadow minister and MEP
- Lord Northbrook, former asset management boss
- Lord Patten of Barnes, former Tory party chairman, European Commissioner and BBC Trust chairman
- Lord Prior of Brampton, former business minister
- Lord Tugendhat, former European Commission vice president
- Duke of Wellington
- Baroness Wheatcroft, former Sunday Telegraph editor
- Lord Willetts, former universities minister