Lords who defeated the Conservative Government with a demand to guarantee the rights of EU citizens living in the UK included seven Conservatives – and now Tory backbenchers will be under pressure to follow their lead when the Article 50 Bill returns to the Commons later this month.
Conservatives have – so far – held true to their government’s demands that they support its plan for leaving the European Union, no matter how chaotic and incoherent that plan may be.
But it seems the debate in the House of Lords is opening divisions within Tory ranks. Who knows what else may come loose from the Tory ranks as peers continue their deliberations?
Remember, the vote on the rights of EU citizens came during the committee stage – the Article 50 Bill has yet to enjoy its third reading in the Upper Chamber of the Houses of Parliament.
Meanwhile, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has written to leaders of European socialist parties to coordinate lobbying for rights of Brits abroad and EU residents in the UK. He knows an opportunity when he sees it.
He has written to leaders of seven European socialist parties, allied to Labour and in government, to lobby, at every level of the EU, for the rights of British citizens abroad and to reaffirm Labour’s commitment to the rights of EU residents in the UK.
The letters follow discussions Mr Corbyn initiated at a Party of European Socialists conference that Labour hosted in London last week.
In the letters, he appeals to the “common voice” of socialist parties across Europe to help guarantee the rights of “around 3 million EU Citizens, living, working and contributing greatly in our societies” and “an estimated 1.5 million British people living in different parts of the European mainland.”
Mr Corbyn wrote: “As socialist parties, we all agree that we must work together to make sure the basic values we share are fully represented in a final agreement between Britain and the EU.
“Therefore I see no better way to start [than] by making this issue a key priority for us in the coming months. We cannot allow our citizens, our neighbours and our friends be subject to further uncertainty or be used as a bargaining chip.”
“We as socialists must stand up for the rights of everybody and I am confident this can be done through the Brexit process and beyond, if we stay true to our beliefs and work together.”
Theresa May’s government has vowed to overturn a demand by the House of Lords to guarantee the rights of EU citizens living in the UK within three months of article 50 being triggered.
Ministers were said to “disappointed” by a heavy defeat in which peers voted 358 to 256 in favour of amending the Brexit bill, but made clear that their position would not change on the issue.
Seven Conservatives including the former cabinet minister Douglas Hogg lined up with the Labour party, Liberal Democrats and crossbenchers to demand formal reassurances for more than 3 million Europeans already resident in Britain.
There will now be intense pressure on Conservative backbench MPs to follow suit when the bill returns to the Commons for another vote in just under a fortnight.
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