Viscount Hailsham, who has tabled an amendment that would block the possibility of Britain leaving the EU without a deal
Unelected peers will today launch their ‘most dangerous’ attempt yet to derail Brexit as they seek to snatch negotiating powers from ministers.
Eurosceptics last night warned that proposed amendments to the Government’s flagship Brexit legislation would give MPs and peers the chance to call a second referendum before the country leaves the EU.
A Government source said the votes in the Lords risked making it ‘the most dangerous day yet for Brexit’, with a raft of ‘very concerning’ motions.
Ministers fear they will suffer defeat on a Liberal Democrat amendment requiring votes in the Lords and Commons on whether to hold a second referendum before Brexit is finalised after Labour last night said it would abstain.
Tory sources said Labour was giving ‘tacit support’ for another Brexit vote by failing to oppose the amendment.
Meanwhile, Labour peers will back an amendment tabled by Tory former Cabinet minister Douglas Hogg – now Viscount Hailsham – that would block the possibility of Britain leaving the EU without a deal.
Ministers have promised MPs will get a ‘take it or leave it’ vote on the final deal, which would mean if they rejected it the country would still leave – just without an agreement with Brussels.
However, the amendment would allow the Commons to decide what course of action the Government should take in the event of Parliament rejecting the draft withdrawal agreement.
This opens the possibility that they could send ministers back to the negotiating table or even cancel Brexit.
Labour’s shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir Starmer yesterday boasted that this would stop the chances of a ‘no deal’ Brexit.
‘This is one of the most important amendments of the entire Brexit process – and indeed of the parliament,’ he told the Observer.
‘We have always been clear that the vote must be truly meaningful. It cannot simply be a take it or leave it choice as the Prime Minister has suggested.
‘This amendment, which has cross-party support, would provide a safety net in the Brexit process.
‘It would remove the possibility of a “No” vote leading to a no-deal. It would bring back control to Parliament.’
Jacob Rees-Mogg, chairman of the Tory backbench European Research Group, warned last week that peers risked voting themselves into extinction by attempting to thwart Brexit
Lord Callanan, the Brexit Minister in the Lords, said: ‘This flawed amendment seeks to tie our hands by inserting false deadlines and shifting the power to negotiate from Government to Parliament.
‘It asks for meaningless votes on the deal before the deal is done.
‘Those who want to overturn the referendum call this the “no Brexit” amendment.
‘The Conservatives are taking the scrutinising role of Parliament seriously, to improve an essential piece of legislation. Labour are using it to frustrate Brexit.’
Remain-backing peers have so far inflicted six defeats on the EU Withdrawal Bill, which proposes powers for ministers to change regulations with limited parliamentary scrutiny.
Ministers argue the powers are needed to ensure that thousands of EU regulations are transferred on to the UK’s statute book before Brexit.
But peers are using amendments to the Bill in a bid to soften the Government’s negotiating stance, including inflicting a defeat earlier this month on the issue of leaving the customs union.
Jacob Rees-Mogg, chairman of the Tory backbench European Research Group, warned last week that peers risked voting themselves into extinction by attempting to thwart Brexit.
He said the defeats on the legislation preparing for Brexit were a case of the ‘peers against the people’ and that they ‘have to decide whether they love ermine or the EU more’.
‘They are trying to stop the largest ever public vote in our history,’ he said. ‘We are in a position of peers against the people.
‘It is deeply unattractive and I think it is the weakest position for the House of Lords to be in.
‘There is a problem with the House of Lords in that it is very condescending towards the democratic vote.
‘They seem to think that they know better than 17.4million people.’