A Labour peer says she has “no confidence” in Theresa May’s “publicly divided government” to deliver Brexit.
Baroness Dianne Hayter, shadow Brexit minister in the House of Lords, is among those seeking amendments to the EU Withdrawal Bill as it is debated by peers this week.
Labour’s frontbench wants the government to formalise its commitment to a meaningful vote in Parliament on any final deal, as well as enhance protections for EU-derived regulations which will be adopted into British law.
Baroness Hayter told HuffPost UK that while she hoped the debate would counter “nonsense” speculation about Lords blocking the legislation, she had little confidence in the government’s approach to negotiations.
“I do not feel confident in the government at all,” she said.
“In one sense, the bill itself is a lesser issue - we can sort this and get it right, because it’s all about what we do now in the UK after we leave the EU.
“My big worry is how the government is so divided, and the impact that will have on the negotiations for both our transition period and more long-term.
“Our negotiators are not just divided - they are divided in public, and EU negotiators are reading English papers and watching the BBC - they know exactly what is going on.
“It’s no secret, and that worries me big time. This is about the future of our country, and I have no confidence in this government being up to the job.”
The former Labour Party chair said she believes peers have a good chance of winning an amendment to formalise Parliament’s meaningful vote, as well as other proposals backed by the Lords’ constitutional committee - which has warned the bill in its current form “risks undermining the legal certainty it seeks to provide”.
The committee has put forward several recommendations to tackle the “overly-broad” powers it gives to ministers and make it more “constitutionally appropriate”.
Baroness Hayter added: “We have accepted the need for a bill like this, but it’s the way the government is doing it that is the problem - giving enormous power to ministers and not protecting rules and regulations we are bringing over from the EU, like consumer rights, environmental rights, workers’ rights.
“In their current form these rules could just be altered by statutory instruments, and we believe everything transferred over should have the status of primary legislation, because it is easier for judges to interpret and cannot be altered by any means other than primary regulations.
“Our priority is to safeguard people’s rights, along with Parliament’s right over ministers in the big decisions facing our country.”
The second reading of the EU Withdrawal Bill will begin in the Lords on Tuesday morning and so far nearly 200 peers - a quarter of the entire House - have put their names down to speak.
“I think we stand a very high chance of success, as the government has already indicated it will bring forward amendments to some aspects of the bill,” Baroness Hayter said.
“But there is clearly much more to be done and I hope my opposite number, Lord Callanan, will respond to our scrutiny of this legislation in a much more considered way than he has with recent Brexit related debates.”