Peers voted to introduce a “sunset clause” on the entire bill (actually, the entire bill apart from one technical point), which would limit it to only five years. Importantly, this means that the so-called “referendum lock” – whereby any transfer of sovereignty from London to Brussels could only be allowed after a Yes vote in a referendum – would have to be voted on again in five years’ time.
The “referendum lock” is key to Cameron’s attempts to win back the support of Eurosceptic MPs who believe he let his party down by allowing the Lisbon Treaty to be written into law without a referendum.
The Foreign Office is therefore livid at what peers have done, regarding this as a “wrecking amendment” designed to spoil the whole bill. But William Hague (mojo back and intact) is intent on getting it through with the referendum lock in its original form.
An FCO source tells me the foreign secretary intends to face down peers, and they reckon that the government could get the numbers to stack up in the Lords next time, having only lost the amendement vote by a handful of votes. “It could have been worse”, my source says. Let’s see whether peers will be as pliant as the FCO hopes…