British Prime Minister Theresa May
British Prime Minister Theresa May

British Prime Minister Theresa May’s government suffered its 15th defeat in the House of Lords Wednesday as the crucial European Union withdrawal bill continued its stormy passage through parliament.

By a vote of 294 to 244, the peers backed an amendment calling for the creation of a watchdog to enforce EU environmental standards after Britain leaves the EU.Lady Maggie Jones, the Labour Party shadow environment minister in the House of Lords said the amendment was the only way to protect the environment for future generations.

The vote was immediately welcomed by a coalition of 13 environmental organisations. Greener UK said in a statement: “The government has promised world-leading protection of the environment after Brexit. The defeat today shows that parliamentarians of all parties believe that it is failing to live up to this ambition.”It was encouraging to see the prime minister launch a 25-year plan for the environment and promise a strong environmental watchdog.

But these announcements and pledges amount to little more than words on paper without the power to hold government to account.”It is imperative that the government now gives the promised green watchdog power to initiate legal action and ensure that vital environmental principles are put into primary legislation. Until it does, it is clear that our environment will have weaker protection when we leave the EU than it does now. Far from being ‘world-leading’, we will be in the environmental third division.”

Lord Callanan, the Conservative government’s Brexit minister in the House of Lords said current EU environmental rules would continue to apply in Britain during the transitional period after Britain leaves the EU next March. He said the government has published plans for a new post-Brexit environmental watchdog, saying the proposals could change after a consultation period. He described the amendment tabled in the House of Lords as premature.Another Conservative peer, Lord Framlingham, described members of the House of Lords voting against the EU withdrawal bill as “wreckers” who were damaging the reputation of the upper chamber.

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