Article 50 bill under pressure in the House of Lords

The Government is facing fresh challenges to its Brexit Bill in the Lords as peers piled pressure on Theresa May's timetable for leaving the EU.

The House of Lords will vote on two crucial amendments to the Article 50 bill
The House of Lords will vote on two crucial amendments to the Article 50 bill

Ministers look likely to suffer another defeat on the legislation later today as the Opposition pushes for a “meaningful” vote on the final divorce deal.

The European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill is set to clear the Lords late tonight but will have to go back to the Commons after last week’s heavy defeat over the rights of EU nationals already living in the UK to remain.

Former Tory leader Lord Hague has urged the Prime Minister to call an early general election to avoid further parliamentary stand-offs over Brexit.

Opening report stage debate on the Bill in a packed chamber, Lord Newby, Liberal Democrat leader in the Lords, called for the people to be given a final say on the Brexit deal.

“This is a very straightforward amendment,” he told peers. “It would require any Brexit deal to be put to the people to approve or reject.

“It’s based on the principle that having asked the people whether they wished to initiate the Brexit process, only the people should take the final decision.”

Lord Newby denied this amounted to “sidelining” Parliament and warned of “corrosive anger” if MPs and peers were to take the final decision going against the majority view at that time.

But the Archbishop of Canterbury warned that holding a second referendum on the final Brexit deal would add to the nation’s divisions and “deepen the bitterness”.

The Lib Dem amendment was defeated by 131 votes to 336, promting the party to say its peers would take the rare decision to vote against giving the bill a third reading in the House of Lords.

Peers are expected to vote on giving MPs the ability to reject Theresa May’s Brexit deal and send her back to the negotiating table later this afternoon.