Britain’s House of Lords begins debating a bill Monday empowering Prime Minister Theresa May to kickstart Brexit — a potentially tricky test given her Conservatives do not hold a majority there.
Discussions in the unelected upper house of parliament get underway after the lower House of Commons overwhelmingly approved the draft legislation earlier this month.
The bill gives May the right to trigger Article 50 of the European Union’s Lisbon Treaty, the formal procedure to start negotiations on leaving the bloc.
The government presented the short bill after losing a high-profile court battle in which judges ruled May must consult parliament before beginning divorce proceedings with Brussels.
The legislation sailed through the Commons this month by 494 votes to 122.
But the government could face greater challenges in the Lords, where only 252 of the more than 800 members are Conservatives.
Peers are proposing changes to the bill that include measures to guarantee the rights of EU nationals in Britain, and defining how parliament votes on a final Brexit deal.
Peter Mandelson, a peer with the opposition Labor party and former European commissioner, said there was a “strong body of opinion” on the seriousness of the two issues.
But he doubted the unelected chamber — whose members are appointees, many of them career politicians — would seek to derail the Brexit bill entirely.
“At the end of the day, the House of Commons must prevail because it is the elected chamber,” Mandelson told BBC television on Sunday.
“But I hope the House of Lords will not throw in the towel early.”