UK PM defeated on Brexit laws for first time since election

2020-01-21 09:09
Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaking in the House of Commons in London after the State Opening of Parliament.

Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaking in the House of Commons in London after the State Opening of Parliament. (JESSICA TAYLOR / AFP / UK PARLIAMENT)

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British Prime Minister Boris Johnson's government was defeated in parliament on Monday for the first time since a December election, with the upper chamber voting in favour of a move to protect the rights of EU citizens in Britain after Brexit.

Johnson's Conservatives won a large majority in the lower chamber, the House of Commons, at the December 12 vote and lawmakers there quickly approved the legislation needed to ratify his exit deal with Brussels earlier this month.

WATCH | Brexit countdown: 11 days to Britain's looming great escape from EU

The legislation is now passing through the House of Lords, where the government does not have a majority.

While the upper chamber is not expected to block passage of the bill, it is seeking to make changes.

Members of the Lords voted by 270 to 229 in favour of a change put forward by the pro-EU Liberal Democrats which would give eligible EU citizens in Britain an automatic right to stay after Brexit, rather than having to apply to the government to do so.


READ | Boris Johnson will not be able to 'get Brexit done' by the end of 2020

It would also ensure they are given physical proof of their right to remain. The government has said only that people will be given a "secure digital status" which links to their passport.

Last week, European Parliament Brexit co-ordinator Guy Verhofstadt said Britain had told him it was looking into the possibility of providing a physical document to EU citizens but Johnson's spokesperson said he was not aware of any plans.

The government later suffered two further defeats in the Lords, over the power of British courts to depart from judgments of the European Court of Justice after Brexit.

It faces another defeat on Tuesday, when members are due to vote on an amendment which would ensure protections for child refugees, a promise made by Johnson's predecessor, Theresa May, but absent from his legislation.

Any changes to the legislation made by the House of Lords have to go back to the House of Commons to be approved and could still be overturned.

Read more on:    uk  |  brexit

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