Today, the Brexit bill goes to the House of Lords for debate. The bill sailed through the House of Commons after numerous attempts at amending the bill to suit Pro-Remain constituents in mainly London areas.
Now though, the bill is at its final stage before going to the Queen for Royal Assent. After that, the Prime Minister will have the sole power to trigger Article 50 of the European Union and begin negotiations with the EU.
British Prime Minister, Theresa May, took time out of her day to personally sit in the House of Lords chamber and listen to the debate herself. There she sits, glaring around the chamber catching the eye of every peer and staring through them, as if to warn them not to reject the Brexit bill. She sits guarded, reserved and completely emotionless. Her body language is steely, composed and quite clearly uncompromising. Theresa is on a mission, and she’s not going to let a bunch of unelected peers get in her way.
The symbolism of the British Prime Minister in the House of Lords is special. The Prime Minister doesn’t often attend the House of Lords, because they are members of the House of Commons and haven’t been given permission by the monarch to enter the Lords as a peer. The fact that the head of the executive branch of government, is sitting to oversee (and perhaps babysit) another part of parliament to make sure they do the right thing, is quite amusing. It’s like May is sitting to remind them of their duty, to protect the interests of the people against other branches of government. Constitutionally, Theresa May shouldn’t really be pressuring other branches of government but because the UK has no codified or written constitution, there are no rules against it.
It is fully understandable that Theresa wants to ensure the Lords approve the Brexit bill. If (as already established) the job of the House of Lords is to protect the interests of the people, then they have no choice but to approve of the bill. It was after all, the people themselves who approved of Brexit. Any attempt to delay Brexit further by rejecting this bill, will be met with fierce opposition. The case for an unelected upper house is already difficult to make in this day and age. Rejecting the Brexit bill will be political suicide for the Lords, public appetite for them will disappear overnight and it will only be a matter of time before an elected upper house is brought in.
Theresa May has the potential to unleash a devastating broadside on the House of Lords. The message is clear, approve of Brexit or be destroyed. George Osborne threatened to ‘deal with them’ if the House of Lords rejected Tax Credits changes. As it turned out, he U-turned before it reached the Lords but the threat is always there. The Lords no longer can fulfil their function because they are constantly threatened by governments who can annihilate them within months. Governments have the knowledge that with a bit of persuasion, the public could easily turn on the House of Lords, so the Lords need to know their place.
In reality, this Brexit bill needs to pass. If it is rejected, the case for the House of Lords in untenable. Peers are supposed to protect the people from the executive, free from the constraints of party whips or general elections. However, the Prime Minister, the Iron Mayden, knows that she can force their hand or threaten to end them completely with total public support.