British government suffers fourth defeat on Brexit legislation in House of Lords

Members listen to the debate on the European Withdrawal Agreement Bill at the House of Lords in London. PHOTO: AFP

LONDON (REUTERS) - Prime Minister Boris Johnson's government suffered a fourth defeat on its Brexit legislation when members of Parliament's upper chamber voted on Tuesday (Jan 21) to ensure protections for child refugees after Britain leaves the European Union.

Johnson's Conservatives won a large majority in the lower chamber, the House of Commons, in a Dec 12 election and earlier this month lawmakers there quickly approved the legislation needed to ratify his exit deal with Brussels.

But the House of Lords, where Johnson's government does not have a majority, made three changes to the legislation on Monday, including over the rights of EU citizens after Brexit.

On Tuesday, the Lords voted 300 to 220 to ensure unaccompanied child refugees can continue to be reunited with family in Britain, a promise made by Johnson's predecessor Theresa May but stripped from his legislation.

"The signal the government is sending by this is a very negative one, it is not a humanitarian signal," said Alf Dubs, an opposition Labour lord who fled to Britain as a child to escape the Nazis, and who proposed the change to the Bill.

Johnson's spokesman said the government would seek to overturn the changes made to the Brexit legislation when the Bill returns to the House of Commons later this week.

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