The Theresa May government faced another defeat – the second in a week – when an amendment to the bill seeking to authorise it to trigger the process for exiting the EU was passed in the House of Lords on Tuesday night, but ministers insisted it did not change anything.
May has committed the government to begin the process to leave the European Union by invoking Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty by the end of this month. The bill with two amendments will now go to the House of Commons early next week, when the government hopes to overturn the amendments.
The latest amendment was to commit the government to give a “meaningful vote” to Parliament on the terms of the final deal with Brussels on leaving the EU. May and her ministers have said so verbally, but the lords wanted it to be mentioned in the bill.
The first amendment passed last week was to secure a commitment on the continued stay of EU citizens in Britain after Brexit, but the May government has refused to do so until a similar commitment is available about the future of British citizens EU countries.
Tuesday’s vote against the government saw the leading ruling party lord, Michael Heseltine, known for his pro-EU views, again voting for the amendment. For his stand, he was on relieved of five advisory posts in the government on Wednesday.
He later said May was "exercising her perfectly legitimate right to get rid of opposition in any way she finds appropriate", but added: "Whether it's a wise thing to do is a matter for her not for me.
"I have been hugely proud of the work I have done for David Cameron and now for this prime minister, and if they don't want me to go on they must sack me. I did write a newspaper article the other day setting out exactly what I intended to do, so I think they could have told me this would be the price, but let me make it quite clear; I would still have voted as I did tonight.
"Sometimes in politics there are issues which transcend party politics; in the end you have to be your own person. I believe our interests are intertwined with Europe. I am not prepared to change,” said Heseltine, who famously walked out of Margaret Thatcher’s cabinet in 1986 over the Westland controversy.