UK government suffers Brexit defeat in the Lords - aims to overturn vote in the Commons
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UK government suffers Brexit defeat in the Lords - aims to overturn vote in the Commons

Peers backed a Labour-led move to guarantee the rights of EU nationals living in the UK

The UK government has suffered a damaging defeat in the Lords over its plan to start negotiations on leaving the EU at the end of this month.

Ignoring stern warnings not to amend the Brexit Bill, peers backed a Labour-led move to guarantee the rights of EU nationals living in the UK by a majority of 102.

Voting was 358 to 256 after a passionate and sometime ill-tempered three-hour committee stage debate on the European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill.

The defeat means the Bill, which was passed unamended by the Commons, will now have to return there for further consideration by MPs.

It could put at risk Prime Minister Theresa May's timetable for triggering Article 50 to begin Brexit talks by the end of March. 

Shadow Brexit minister Baroness Hayter of Kentish Town warned against EU nationals being used as "bargaining chips" in negotiations to quit the EU.

Lady Hayter said the concerns of EU nationals here and British expats living in Europe shouldn't be "traded against each other".

Urging ministers to remove the uncertainty, she said: "These people need to know now - not in two years' time or even 12 months' time. They simply can't put their lives on hold."

Home Secretary Amber Rudd wrote to every peer yesterday urging them not to back the Opposition amendment to the legislation and was present for part of the debate - sitting on the steps in front of the throne like the Prime Minister did at the Bill's second reading.

But it failed to persuade peers that the Bill should pass unamended and become law as quickly as possible.

Government to try to overturn defeat  

UK government sources said Prime Minister Theresa May will seek to use her majority in parliament's lower chamber - the House of Commons - to overturn the defeat.

The source confirmed an earlier tweet by the Press Association which said the government would look to reverse the change when the amended bill is put before the lower house of parliament. Both houses must approve any changes before the bill can become law, and before May can trigger the legal exit process.

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