Triple defeat for Johnson and cruel Tory policy

Boris Johnson
Fréa Lockley

With a large Commons majority, Johnson’s government may think it’s invincible. But on 20 January, it suffered a triple defeat against its increasingly harsh and cruel Brexit bill. At least for now, there’s a glimmer of hope for EU citizens, child refugees, and justice.

Avoiding another Windrush

Peers in the House of Lords handed Johnson the first defeat of this government by insisting EU citizens should be given physical proof of their right to remain in the UK after Brexit. According to the Independent:

The estimated 3.6m EU residents in the UK fear victimisation without physical documents after Brexit, including by immigration officials as happened in the Windrush scandal.

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Lib Dem peer Jonny Oates tabled an amendment which won by 41 votes. Oates said it:

simply seeks to uphold the promise repeatedly made by Boris Johnson that the rights of EU citizens to remain in the UK would be automatically guaranteed.

An estimated “900,000 UK-based EU nationals” still haven’t applied for secure status. Some may wrongly assume that they’ll face immediate rejection if they earn under £30,000. Oates tabled the amendment because many reportedly fear they could be “automatically criminalised and subject to deportation”.

Lawyer and activist Peter Stefanovic highlighted the dangers of Johnson’s government:

And many people warned about the potential danger of “another Windrush” – this one affecting EU citizens:

Child refugees

Peers also backed another amendment by Labour’s Alf Dubs. On 8 January, Johnson’s government repealed an amendment that “protected the rights of unaccompanied child refugees” to join family in the UK. The Lords voted against this by 279 votes to 172 and backed Dubs’ new amendment to give local authorities more say in helping child refugees. Dubs told the Independent this affects children:

in desperately difficult circumstances… sleeping under tarpaulins at Calais or in awful circumstances on Lesbos.

Ahead of the vote, Vanessa Redgrave said:

what the government has tried to do, and will succeed if we don’t stop them, is inhuman.

Green MP Caroline Lucas welcomed the Lords vote:


In a triple whammy, peers also voted against Johnson’s push to allow British judges to overturn European Court of Justice (ECJ) rulings after Brexit. Peers defeated this by 241 votes to 205. According to the Independent, Theresa May committed to transfer all “EU law onto the domestic statute books”, which meant only the Supreme Court or the High Court of Justiciary in Scotland had power to change these. Johnson wants to give lower courts powers to overturn ECJ rulings. But ahead of the vote, the Lords committee stressed:

We do not believe it is appropriate for courts other than the Supreme Court and the Scottish High Court of Justiciary to have power to depart from the interpretations of EU case law.

Allowing lower courts to reinterpret EU case law risks causing significant legal uncertainty that would be damaging to individuals and companies.

One Twitter user summed up the importance of this defeat:


These votes highlight just how dangerous Johnson’s majority government truly is. The Lords may be controversial and unelected, but as it stands, it’s our best hope to defeat the abject cruelty underpinning legislation the Tories will keep trying to bulldoze through.

Featured image via ©UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor

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    1. The anti-democratic cheering on the unelected? All the terrible things happening in this country are all happening while we’re in the EU and it did nothing to stop it. And your attempts to overthrow democracy cost us a Corbyn socialist government. You may be left wing…maybe…but democratic? Never.

      1. Injustice has to be fought with every means available. The Tories have a majority in the house of commons with 43% of the vote. That is hardly democratic either.

        EU citizens are denied the right to vote in elections and were denied the the right to vote in the EU referendum, despite the fact that they pay more tax on average than UK citizens. So much for No taxation without representation.

        Brexit stopped being the “will of the people” sometime ago, that is why they were so SCARED of a second referendum.

        It was the Brexit MPs who cost us a Corbyn Government, If they had forced a second referendum first, remain would have won, and Johnson would have lost face. We are stuck with Brexit now, and as things go tits up the Brexiters will blame the remainers.

    2. With an 80-seat majority, Boris can overturn any Lord’s amendments he likes. This is no triple defeat, or any other kind of defeat: saying so is just grasping at straws.

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