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The House of Lords Chamber at the start of the third day of The European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill debate this week. (Handout/AFP/Getty Images)
The House of Lords Chamber at the start of the third day of The European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill debate this week. (Handout/AFP/Getty Images)

Globe editorial

Globe editorial: Meddling Brits keep interfering with Brexit plans. How dare they! Add to ...

One of the key arguments cited by Brexit supporters for leaving the European Union – along with exaggerated threats about hordes of immigrants overrunning the country – was that doing so would restore the sovereignty of the British Parliament.

“Our laws should be made by people we can elect and kick out – that’s more democratic,” the Leave side said on its website in reference to the European Parliament. The European Court, it added, “overrules us on everything from how much tax we pay, to who we can let in and out of the country, and on what terms.”

All power to Westminster, huzzah and so on! Except now the knickers of those same Brexiters are all in knots, because the Parliament whose sovereignty they championed is daring to insert itself into the process by which the U.K. will leave the EU.

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The Supreme Court got the ball rolling in January by ruling that the government had to hold a vote in Parliament in order to trigger the exit process. Prime Minister Theresa May tabled a bill to that effect, and the House of Commons passed it quickly.

But this week, the House of Lords, in a strong majority, demanded amendments, the most critical of which is that any negotiated deal to leave the EU must be approved by both houses of Parliament in a “meaningful vote.”

For this, the Lords will be no doubt be pilloried as “enemies of the people,” the term applied by one pro-Leave newspaper to the ever-so-treacherous judges who enforced Parliament’s sovereignty in the first place. Their crime is to challenge a central conceit of the Leave side; i.e., that the referendum result in favour of leaving the EU expresses the clear will of the people and eliminates the need for any further input from Parliament.

The bill will now go back to the House of Commons, where that amendment and others will likely be stripped out by compliant MPs. It would be better if they didn’t.

British voters have given the government a mandate to negotiate their country’s departure from the EU, but it’s not carte blanche.

Their only defence against a bad deal is the MPs they “can elect and kick out.” It is no great achievement to go from being dictated to by an unanswerable government in Brussels to one in London.

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