From a vote on a second referendum on Brexit, to a debate on the Brexit bill and another vote on allowing parliament to have a say in the final Brexit bill, the House of Lords would be voting and debating on Brexit-related issues today. 

Today, is the day that the government will possibly face a second defeat on the Brexit bill as peers in the House of Lords will predictably vote in their majority for having a “meaningful vote” on the final Brexit deal. Later peers will debate the third reading of the bill and then the bill would be ready to return to the House of Commons. The two stages of the bill that will take place today are the report stage, where the bill is examined and changes are made, and the third reading, where the bill can be tidied up. 

The debate began with the Liberal Democrats’ proposal for a second referendum on Brexit. The Lib Dem peers have promised to vote against the Brexit bill unless their amendment on having a second referendum on the terms of the Brexit deal is accepted. The Lib Dem leader in the House of Lords, Dick Newby, said:

“The Brexit deal will define the future direction of our country for generations. The people decided to initiate the Brexit process. Only they can legitimise its outcome.

For the Liberal Democrats, this is a red line.

Theresa May should listen for once in her life. She must either give the people democracy or expect further votes on the Bill.”

The House of Lords (also ceremonially referred to as the House of Peers) debate 

Report stage:

1. Lib Dems’ amendment on holding a second referendum on the final Brexit deal: First to talk was the Lib Dem leader in the House of Lords, Lord Newby, who argued that the people should have the final say over Brexit. The Lib Dems are calling for a second referendum for people to be able to choose and answer the question of whether they agree with the final Brexit deal.  He said most people didn’t vote to leave the single market and that the UK referendum reflected only 52% of the people. He described this as a “simplistic view”, adding that “I don’t believe that vote should be the last vote.” 

Lord Warner added that the referendum wasn’t clear and that voters need to have a final say on the deal that is negotiated. He also said that there were signs that people changed their mind since the referendum result and believes that the government doesn’t really want a deal.  “The cat was let out of the bag last week” when the Brexit secretary David Davis “told colleagues to prepare for the possibility of there being no deal.” Lord Warner put it clearly: “What began with a referendum should finish with a referendum.” 

Labour former cabinet minister Peter Hain also backed the amendment of a second referendum saying that is Labour policy. He said that people “didn’t know what leave would entail” and that “voters should have a final say on where Britain ends up.”  Hopefully, not stranded on European shores begging to get back in the EU. It would be ironic, since the UK referendum was sold by the Great Brexiteers as a ticket for an anachronistic Little Britain that could be just fine on its own. 

The Conservative Patience Wheatcroft also said that “people should have the chance to decide …whether they really want to go ahead with it.”

Among those against a second referendum were the archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby and Lib Dem Lady Falkner of Margravine. He called the possibility of a second referendum undemocratic while Lady Falkner said it wasn’t a “good means of taking complicated decisions.” The Conservative Lord Hamilton of Epsom also disagreed with holding a second referendum, saying that such a move “would give the EU an incentive to offer the UK a very bad deal.”

Lord Taverne warned of a post-Brexit Britain being “pushed into the hands of President Trump.” He talked about the dangers of a “return to protectionism and nationalism of the 1930s” and the fact that “people should have the chance to change their minds on Brexit.”

The Labour Party’s Lady Kennedy of the Shaws supported the second referendum amendment, stressing how Brexit will make people 30% poorer. She said: “And it goes back to that thing, did people vote to become poorer? I sat with two very distinguished businessmen, whose names will be on all of your lips, the other night who said that by 2025 the people of Great Britain, the middles classes as well as the working classes, will be 30% poorer. Just think about that; 30% less well off. And we are lying to people if we don’t tell them the truth about it.”

Angela Smith, the Labour leader in the Lords, said that Labour “is pushing for parliament to have a meaningful vote on Brexit” but she “cannot support [the second referendum] amendment. Labour will be abstaining.”

Lord Bridges of Headley, the Brexit minister, reminded everyone of David Cameron’s words that we should not have “neverendums.”

After the peers voted down the Lib Dem amendment, the Lib Dems announced that they would vote against the Brexit bill at third reading tonight. Only 22 Labour peers and 2 Tory peers voted with Lib Dems for the second referendum. 

2. After the Lib Dems’ amendment, there was a second amendment by the Labour party about ministers having to make quarterly statements to parliament about the Brexit talks and publish their reports. 

According to Lady Hayter of Kentish Town, the shadow Brexit minister, the proposal goes hand in hand with Labour’s amendment saying that parliament should have a meaningful vote on the final Brexit deal. She believes that Labour’s amendment will be passed later this afternoon.

The advocate general for Scotland Lord Keen of Elie said that there won’t be any “secrets” or, as Lady Ludford called them, “nasty secrets” during the Brexit talks, despite Theresa May’s secretive position on negotiations.

3. The government is, however, in danger later tonight when peers are expected to vote for parliament to have a vote on May’s deal and whether to approve her negotiations and plans.  While the Lib Dems will vote against the bill, it is, nonetheless, expected to pass the House of Lords and will mark the government’s second defeat on the Brexit bill. On Monday (13 March), the bill will arrive at the House of Commons where MPs are expected to change both amendments and send it back to the House of Lords.