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May 3, 2018updated 04 May 2018 4:19pm

David Davis: Lords’ proposals “would be a gift” to EU negotiators over Brexit

By Rachel Dobbs

The UK’s Brexit Secretary David Davis has said some of the amendments made by the House of Lords to the European Union Withdrawal Bill may aid the EU in negotiations.

Davis fielded questions from MPs on Brexit in the House of Commons this morning.

Davis praised the work done in the Lords over the EU Withdrawal Bill, but said that some of the changes made may benefit EU negotiators rather than their British counterparts.

The Conservative MP for New Forest West, Desmond Swayne, asked if the House of Lords was overstepping its bounds over Brexit, claiming it was acting as “wrecking chamber” rather than a revising chamber.

Davis said:

The House of Lords is a revising chamber and it does a very important job, but some of the proposals, for example to put timetables into the negotiating arrangements, would be a gift to the negotiators on the other side

John Whittingdale, who is the Conservative MP for Malden, also took Davis’ Q&A as an opportunity to complain about the role of the House of Lords in Brexit negotiations.

Whittingdale asked:

Is this task not going to be made any easier and indeed considerably harder by some of the amendments passed on the EU Withdrawal Bill?

Does [Davis] agree they will need to be repealed when they come back to this House and the Lords will press them at their peril?

Davis replied:

This is an essential bill in the national interest and some of the amendments in the upper house but the proposals put by the House of Lords could have the effect of undermining negotiations.

Yesterday, peers in the UK Parliament’s upper chamber — the House of Lords — defeated the government by voting 309 to 242 in favour of an amendment made by Lord Patten concerning the way Northern Ireland is handled during Brexit.

Patten’s amendment requires ministers to act in a way that is compatible with the 1998 Northern Ireland Act and the Belfast principles, which set out requirements for partnership, equality and mutual respect between Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland, and Great Britain.

Patten, who is a former Conservative cabinet minister, has led a cross-party movement to try and ensure there is no hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland after Britain leaves the EU, and to ensure that cooperation continues under the Good Friday agreement.

Patten described Brexit policy in Northern Ireland as “sometimes clueless, and sometimes delinquent”.

In supporting his amendment, peers voted to guarantee no “checks and controls” at the Irish border.

Yesterday’s vote was the tenth defeat the government has suffered over its EU withdrawal bill in the House of Lords.

Other defeats include an amendment giving MPs the power to stop the UK from leaving the EU without a deal, and an amendment throwing out the sweeping powers originally granted to minister under the bill.

In his appearance in the House of Commons today, Davis also defended the divisions in Cabinet over UK Prime Minister Theresa May’s plans for a customs partnership and said that Cabinet was taking its time to make sure it reached the right decision.

May and the remain members of her inner “Brexit Cabinet” are seeking a customs partnership with the EU, while Brexiteers (Davis among them) reject the idea.

The Cabinet privately debated the issue yesterday, and there is much speculation over the side that new Home Secretary Sajid Javid will take. He is understood to have expressed his doubts over May’s proposal.