Amber Rudd leads charge to prevent rebel Lords changing Theresa May's Brexit bill

The Home Secretary says the Government will not consider any alterations, setting the stage for a fight in the upper House

Joe Watts
Political Editor
Sunday 26 February 2017 11:59
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Amber Rudd: I'd like the Brexit bill unamended

Home Secretary Amber Rudd has hit back against the drive to alter Theresa May’s Brexit plan, stating that the Government will not accept any compromise on its bill to trigger Article 50.

Ms Rudd said the legislation which will allow Ms May to launch the two-year countdown to Brexit, should be passed unamended by the House of Lords who are set to debate it this coming week.

She was backed up by Tory Chairman Patrick McLoughlin who lashed out at campaigner Gina Miller for demanding in The Independent today that the Lords show “backbone” in winning concessions before passing Ms May’s bill.

It also comes as Tory grandee Michael Heseltine said he was ready to defy Ms May and vote against her Brexit plan.

Asked on ITV’s Peston on Sunday if there is any possibility of the Government accepting changes to the bill, Ms Rudd said: “No – I don’t think there is any possibility and I don’t think there should be.”

Going further on Lord Heseltine’s intervention, she said: “The fact is the House of Commons, of which he was such a fantastic member of in his time, did pass [the bill] by a big majority. I hope he will reconsider.

“There’ll be plenty of opportunities to debate and consider the negotiations over the next couple of years. The point about this bill, this short two-clause bill, is to give our Prime Minister permission to go ahead and invoke Article 50. I’d like it unamended.”

Supreme Court campaigner Gina Miller said Lords debating Ms May’s bill must take the lead because the House of Commons had shown “cowardice” in failing to win any compromise.

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But hitting back, Mr McLoughlin told the BBC's Andrew Marr Show that the bill should go through the Lords unchanged, as it had been approved by the “elected House of Commons”.

He went on: “I did find it interesting that Gina Miller was going on about sovereignty – the elected House of Commons has overwhelmingly passed a bill based on the referendum which said that we should pull out of the European Union.

“Both the Houses of Parliament agreed to that referendum. We can’t now start second guessing the referendum.”

Writing in The Mail On Sunday, Lord Heseltine said Labour, Liberal Democrat and rebellious Tory colleagues also want a change to the Brexit bill that will mean MPs and peers have ultimate authority over how the UK leaves – though a vote on the issue may not occur this week.

He said: “I have never known a future populated by such uncertainty, but my preoccupation is to ensure that if public opinion changes then Parliament has the means to reflect that, whether by election, referendum or rethink.”

Last week Lord Mandelson also demanded the British people are given the chance to have their say on Ms May’s Brexit deal, through a vote in Parliament or even a referendum.

If a vote does occur this week in the Lords, it is most likely to be on an amendment to guarantee the rights of EU citizens living in the UK, which enjoys support from every part of the Lords.

In the instance that the Lords does vote to amend the bill, those changes would then have to go back to the Commons for approval.

Downing Street has said it still expects to meet its goal of finishing the legislative process around the bill and triggering Article 50 by the end of March.

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