Lords in fresh Brexit attack: Peers vote for UK to be tied to EU's environment rules

This afternoon’s vote marks the 15th defeat the Government has suffered at the hands of peers.

The Lords voted by 294 to 244 – a majority of 50 – to approve the latest change to the EU Withdrawal Bill this afternoon.

Supporters of the amendment said it will ensure continued environmental protection as well as establishing a powerful watchdog tasked with policing regulations.

But in a scathing attack on “Remain protagonists”, Tory Lord Framlingham warned colleagues “history will not be kind” to the Lords for its conduct during the Brexit process.

Tabling the amendment, crossbench peer Lord Krebs said under the Government’s current plans, the environmental principals of EU law will not be transferred onto the UK’s statute books after Brexit.

He warned the ways in which the these could be enforced will also be lost and not replaced.

He said: “This amendment, if approved, would fill these gaps and so ensure that indeed as intended, the protection as our environment after Brexit will remain as it is now.

“This amendment is about caring for the future of our grandchildren.

“It’s not just about birds, bees, butterflies and wildflowers, because the health of our grandchildren is intimately related to the health of the environment that we leave for them to live in.”

The Government said its plans would allow it to “balance environmental priorities against other national preterites” and “offer greater flexibility to ministers”.

Tory peer Lord Framlingham warned the actions of the Lords during the Brexit process would go down in history as the chamber “at its worst”.

He insisted he was not against enshrining environmental protections into UK law, but said the House of Lords was overstepping its remit to attempt to change the Brexit Bill at this stage.

Launching into an attack on pro-EU peers, he said some Lords had used their oversight duties to “further their own ends” and attempt to derail Brexit.

He warned if “Remain protagonists” continued to argue against the split, it would deepen divisions in the Lords.

He said: “I do not believe history will be very kind to those who continue to hinder the progress of this vital chapter in our country’s affairs.”

The EU’s environmental rules are currently enforced by the European Commission and European Court of Justice.

After Brexit, the Government has proposed setting up a UK-based watchdog to do the same job.

But peers slammed the “toothless imitation” proposed by ministers for lacking the same clout and warned a lack of effective oversight would lead to worse environmental standards.

Lord Callanan, for the Government, said it was “disappointing” the amendment had been tabled today.

He said the Government had already taken on board feedback offered by the Lords.

Said the amendment attempted to tie the Government’s hands and dictate what powers the new environmental watchdog should have and how they should work.

The insisted environmental protection would be “strengthened, not weakened” under the Government’s plans.

All 15 amendments passed in the Lords will need to be passed in the Commons before they become law.

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