Theresa May is set for a fresh battle over Brexit this week as Lord Mandelson confirmed peers are primed to defeat the Government on two key measures.
The former Labour Cabinet Minister today called on his House of Lords colleagues not to “throw in the towel” over Brexit, and predicted the Government could lose votes on the rights of EU citizens to stay in the UK and giving Parliament a meaningful vote on the negotiation.
Both measures were defeated by May when the Brexit Bill was put before Parliament last week, but the Lords – where the Tories do not have a majority – is set to bring the amendments back to life.
When asked on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show if it was possible the Government could lose the votes on the amendments, and therefore see the Bill return to the Commons for yet more debate, Lord Mandelson said: “I think it is, I think there’s a strong body of opinion across party and across the independent peers as well that both these issues are very serious.”
He added: “But of course when it comes to EU citizens the British government is not negotiating with itself, and there will be people amongst the member states who say ‘no, we don’t want to take this issue away, we’ll take it later away during the course of negotiation’ because it’s as much a negotiating gambit for them as it is for Britain.”
— The Andrew Marr Show (@MarrShow) February 19, 2017
If the Lords were to successfully amend the Brexit Bill, it would return to the Commons for another vote, before again going to the Upper Chamber.
The process – known as “ping pong” – could scupper May’s plan of triggering the formal process of leaving the EU before the end of March.
However, Lord Mandelson did accept that the Commons views must take priority over that of the unelected House of Lords, and so it may be that once MPs send back the legislation, peers wave it through.
Lord Mandelson, a former EU trade commissioner who campaigned for Remain, painted a dire picture of Britain’s future outside of the Single Market – the policy put forward by the Prime Minister.
He also predicted immigration would not fall after Brexit, despite the Government’s repeated pledge to get reduce net migration to below 100,000.
The current level is 335,000.
Lord Mandelson said: “At the end of the day, what we’re going to see in this negotiation is three things – we’re going to see less trade, you’re going to see Britain paying through the nose for the access that we want to negotiate.
“But you’re also going to see, broadly speaking, I suspect the same number of migrants coming to this country as now, partly because already half of the migrants don’t come from the EU, they come from the rest of the world and in the case of those who come from Europe, we need them to fill jobs in our economy.”
Lord Mandelson’s comments come two days after former Primer Minister Tony Blair called on pro-Europeans to “rise up in defence of what we believe.”