UK Politics: May tries to beef up Brexit bill support with Lords appointments

The UK Parliament where Theresa May will appoint nine new Tory Lords
Will May's appointments help her get Brexit through Parliament?
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The Prime Minister thinks that by appointing nine new Tory Lords she might have a better chance of getting Brexit through Parliament. Max Liu reports on the latest UK politics news and market moves...

"May's new appointments to the Lords will not be a Brexit game-changer but they show she's determined to do whatever is necessary to get the job done. May is [1.65] to be PM who delivers Brexit."

Theresa May will appoint nine new Conservative Lords in a bid to put an end to her government's defeats in the second chamber. The government's EU Withdrawal Bill has been defeated in the Lords 15 times, with the most recent defeat coming on Wednesday over the issue of environmental protection standards after Brexit. Peers voted by a majority of 50 to say the government should establish a body to maintain EU standards.

The new Tory peers will include Eric Pickles and Peter Lilley, the former a member of David Cameron's government from 2010 to 2015, while Lilley served in the cabinet under both Margaret Thatcher and John Major. Lilley was one of the band of anti-EU ministers who Major famously dubbed "the bastards". In 2015, Lilley said: "I'm still a bastard."

The environmental protection standards defeat appears to have been the final straw for May. The government has previously been defeated by Lords on the customs union, the Irish border and the question of whether the Brexit date - 29 March next year - should be enshrined in legislation. This last issue is of particular interest to bettors: the UK is [1.69] to leave by the date mentioned, and [2.36] to still be in the EU after the deadline.

May under fire for cynical Lords appointments

We noted last week the bizarre spectacle of pro-Brexit Tory MPs, who have previously voted against reform of the House of Lords, criticising it for not supporting the government on Brexit. Now the Prime Minister is attempting to solve the problem by stuffing the second chamber with more sympathetic members.

May has come under fire for announcing the new peers on Friday afternoon, while the news was dominated by coverage of the build up to the Royal wedding. Some critics say she wanted to bury the news of her appointments, beneath the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle.

The nominations will take the number of Tory peers from 244 to 253. No party has a majority in the 780-strong Lords, so a handful of more supportive peers will only make a modest difference in getting Brexit through parliament.

Are Tory Remainers winning the argument?

Michael Portillo - who like Lilley undermined Major over Europe in the 1990s and is still a "bastard" - said this week that the Brexiteers are losing significant ground, particularly on the customs union, and that the UK is heading for "Brexit-lite".

Portillo's view is compounded by reports that a trio of ex-ministers will urge May to stand up to the Brexiteers in her party. Tory MPs Justine Greening, Damian Green and Amber Rudd, who have all been sacked by May in the past year, will tell the PM that, if she chooses to face down the likes of Boris Johnson and Jacob Rees-Mogg, she can count on their support.

This is an interesting development for the Tories - who YouGov put five points ahead of Labour in this week's Westminster voting intention poll - and the three MPs are convinced that it is impossible for their party to unite over a Brexit deal.

May's new appointments to the Lords will not be a Brexit game-changer but the move does indicate that she is determined to do whatever is necessary to get the job done. May is [1.65] to be PM who delivers Brexit.

For that to happen, she needs to avoid a general election and a second referendum. The UK to leave the EU before the next general election is [1.19], while a second referendum before 2020 is [3.8].

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