United Kingdom government disappointed by Lords votes on Brexit laws, vows robust action

"Cabinet expressed its strong disappointment at the defeats inflicted on the European Union withdrawal bill in the House of Lords, saying they risked tying the government's hands behind its back in negotiations with Brussels", he told reporters.

It was seventh of nine defeats in the last two weeks for the government, which says the European Union withdrawal bill is purely a technical document to "copy and paste" European Union law into British law and guarantee a smooth Brexit.

"As for individual amendments, we have said we will look at those and discuss those in due course", the spokesman said, adding that if the government's hands were tied in the talks, "that's not something we believe is in the UK's interest". The cross-party amendment, supported by 19 Conservative rebels, succeeded with a majority of 91.

Speaking to the House of Lords' European Union committee on Tuesday, Davis said a proposal from the European Parliament for such a post-Brexit arrangement may have merit depending on its terms.

He added: "That bill left the House of Commons in a state which will deliver what the British public voted for". Fox and Boris Johnson have called on May to abandon her preferred option of a "customs partnership", which relies on Britain collecting European Union import tariffs on behalf of Brussels.

He said: "If we were in a customs union with the European Union we would have to accept what the EU negotiated in terms of market access to the United Kingdom without the United Kingdom having a voice".

The government has committed to giving Parliament a vote on the final deal, but has framed this as a choice between accepting the terms it has negotiated with Brussels and rejecting them and leaving without a deal.

Fox refused to deny he would resign if a customs partnership was agreed, and did not challenge the assertion by the Today presenter John Humphrys that May was a "horribly weakened prime minister", replying that a hung parliament had made agreeing its Brexit legislation harder.

Shadow Brexit Secretary Keir Starmer said last night's vote was "hugely significant" and would "ensure Parliament has a proper role in the Brexit negotiations" and avoid a no deal outcome.

  • Rogelio Becker