Following numerous setbacks to Brexit in the House of Lords, Theresa May will add 10 new Tory peers to try and boost progress in the upper chamber. She will also hand 1 peerage to the DUP. The addition of new peers is designed to help the government pass more Brexit legislation without further amendments.
The Lords have been the principal opposition to Brexit having voted against the government 15 times. Most recently, they voted to guarantee equal environmental protections after Brexit as guaranteed by EU law. Other notable votes in the Lords have included guaranteeing the rights of EU citizens living in the UK, keeping the EU rights charter, and making staying in the EEA a primary negotiating target.
The government has so far reversed its defeats but the revising chamber remains a problem for Theresa May and her Brexiteers. They see these amendments as a limit to their executive power and freedom in negotiating Brexit.
The 11 Brexiteers that will be added (10 Tory and 1 DUP) will be joined by 3 Labour peers. Labour’s decision to add more peers to the chamber was criticised by Labour Remainer Lord Andrew Adonis, saying “I’m very surprised that the Labour party is playing this game by agreeing to make a small number of peers because it legitimises the actions of the Tories.”
The 11 additions are unlikely to make a huge difference. The government has been defeated by far more than 11 votes in most of its defeats. The last defeat, on environmental protections, was by a majority of 5o. The Conservatives will not hold a majority in a chamber made up of 780 peers, although full attendance is extremely rare. The move has been criticised as a desperate attempt to force through the government’s Brexit agenda and can be seen as a major flaw in the House of Lords.
Analysis from Iwan Doherty – Editor in Chief
As a socialist, it is very rare for me to support the House of Lords. However, their role as a force for good as a technocratic, yet unelected, revising chamber in the Brexit process cannot be denied. My respect for the Lords and the system has dramatically increased. It’s not perfect, as this story shows, but having a technocratic chamber to control and refine populism is something we would be worse without.
Too often, the referendum result has been bandied around as an excuse for the seizure of power from Parliament by the government. The Lords have done a good job in creating practical solutions to problems that the government has been unable or unwilling to solve.
The House of Lords have gone much further to calm the worries about Brexit than the government itself. Its attempts to guarantee human rights, environmental protections, and rights for EU citizens are what the government should have done. The fact the Conservatives have been embarrassed so many times doesn’t show the Lord’s resilience, but shows how abstract and unrealistic the government’s plans have been.
However, the fact that the Prime Minister can simply create more peers to try and get her way shows a serious flaw in the Lords. It is not only a mistake by the May to try and subvert our Parliamentary democracy like this, but it is also a mistake in the system.
The government is keen to get a free hand to negotiate Brexit. However, considering the Tory record on negotiations and political policy to date, it is wise to make sure Parliament, not Whitehall, is the ultimate power in the Brexit process, as the Leave campaign wanted.