U.K. Lords Inflict 15th Defeat on May Over Key Brexit Bill

(Bloomberg) -- The upper chamber of the U.K. Parliament inflicted a final defeat on Prime Minister Theresa May over her flagship piece of Brexit legislation on Wednesday.

The House of Lords voted by 294 to 244 in favor of an amendment -- opposed by the government -- to maintain European Union environmental standards after Britain’s departure. Peers had already defeated the government on 14 previous amendments.

“After we leave the European Union, we want the same protections as we were promised, and this is the simple way of achieving it,” John Gummer, a Conservative former environment minister who co-sponsored the amendment, said before the vote. “These are the days in which we are standing up for the future, for our children and our grandchildren.”

The unelected Lords have complicated May’s Brexit strategy by approving amendments pushing for her to keep Britain in the EU’s customs union and in the European Economic Area, crossing negotiating red lines set by the premier. While the elected House of Commons can overturn them, it’s by no means certain that all changes will be struck down. A date has yet been set for the bill’s return to the lower chamber.

This latest amendment would compel ministers to set up “an independent body with the purpose of ensuring compliance with environmental law by public authorities.” Peers debated the proposed change during the legislation’s final stage in the upper chamber.

U.K. Lords Inflict 15th Defeat on May Over Key Brexit Bill

In keeping with previous successful amendments, the latest one had sponsors from across the political spectrum, including Gummer, John Krebs, an independent, and Maggie Jones of Labour.

Amendments are unusual in a bill’s third reading in the Lords, but lawmakers had agreed with the government to wait on a consultation on environmental protections -- published last week -- before deciding whether to press their case.

Krebs told the chamber that the consultation “does not go far enough, and in a blog post on Tuesday Jones called it a “bitter disappointment to non-governmental organizations and individuals concerned about our environment standards post Brexit.”

“The proposed watchdog is a toothless imitation of current EU institutions’ powers to intervene and compel governments to act,” Jones wrote.

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.