The Great Repeal Bill, which will take the UK out of the EU, suffered its first major defeat on Thursday after the House of Lords voted 358 to 256 in favour of amending it.
The amendment requires the government to bring forward proposals to ensure that EU or EEA citizens and their families living in the UK will keep their residence rights after Brexit. Under this amendment a guarantee must be given to foreign nationals within three months of article 50 being triggered.
The debate in the House of Lords covered the issue of timing as well as the need to allay concerns many have over their future.
Conservative peer, Lord Tebbit, criticised the amendment saying that it “looks after foreigners and not the British”. The government fear that guaranteeing EU national’s rights will weaken their negotiating position in regards to UK nationals living abroad in other EU countries.
Labour peer, Baroness Hayter, who sponsored the amendment, said that people
“should not be traded against each other”. She added “you cannot do negotiations with people’s futures. They are too precious to be used as bargaining chips.”
Many academic institutions fear the impact of Brexit with already a “significant decrease” seen in the number of EU nationals applying to UK universities.
The Government has declared its disappointment at the amendment and will “resist” it, they will seek to overturn the defeat when the bill returns to the Commons. The Lords who backed the amendment hope that MPs will defy the government and vote to keep the changes “on the basis of morality and principle”.