Liberal Democrat leader Sir Vince Cable has warned that peers across the House of Lords are ready to join forces and inflict defeats on the Government over Brexit.
In an exclusive interview with The Independent, he set out how he has met with peers in a bid to ensure the Government does not use Brexit legislation as an excuse to get rid of rights and protections currently enshrined in European law.
Sir Vince also revealed how interest is growing among members of the Lords in the idea of having a “referendum of the facts” once the country knows what kind of Brexit deal it faces.
His intervention follows a further round of Brexit talks which again failed to move negotiations forward and comes as Theresa May’s ministers begin a drive to push through their key piece of legislation necessary to make EU withdrawal happen.
But while Ms May has a good chance of winning votes on her bill in the House of Commons with the Northern Irish DUP’s backing, she is weaker in the Lords against opposition from the Lib Dems, Labour, Tory rebels and crossbench peers.
Sir Vince explained: “Our people are fairly optimistic that on amendments of substance, particularly where this involves the rights of Parliament, the ‘Henry VIII powers’, they will be able to defeat the Government.”
The EU (Withdrawal) Bill coming to the Commons next week hands sweeping powers to ministers to change legislation, so they can rewrite laws affecting the UK which up to now have been enshrined in Brussels, but after Brexit will be written in to British statute.
Campaigners fear that it will be used as an opportunity by Conservative ministers to hollow out employment, environmental and equality protections and human rights laws.
Sir Vince went on: “[The Lib Dems] have clout in the Lords, if we are able to combine with other groups. We are talking to the crossbench group, I spoke to them last week and there must have been 50 or 60 of them in the room.