The Brexit Process: "Lords-a-leaping"
The Article 50 bill will pass, but the real debate about Brexit is yet to begin.
It was certainly a majestic setting.
The House of Lords was resplendent with gilt, glass, a bevy of bishops and many geriatric former politicians crammed onto its red leather benches.
And there perched on a parapet just below the glittering royal throne sat Theresa May, on a highly unusual visit to the upper house.
The reason for the prime minister's presence on February 20th was that the Lords were starting to debate the bill authorising her to invoke Article 50, the treaty procedure for leaving the European Union.
Although (or because) they are unelected, the quality of their debate far exceeded that in the Commons a fortnight ago.
Lord Hague, a former Tory leader, loudly denounced Tony Blair, a former Labour prime minister, for inviting people to “rise up” against Brexit.
Lord Mandelson, Mr Blair's close ally, responded that Brexit supporters did not want Britain to be poorer and politically isolated, and so should be entitled to change their minds.
Lords Lawson and Lamont, both former Tory chancellors, attacked as undemocratic the idea of amending a bill that had not only passed the Commons unscathed but also reflected one of the biggest votes in British history.
Even so, because the government lacks a majority in the upper house, the Lords will try to amend the bill.
One amendment could demand a bigger role for Parliament.
Another would try to guarantee the rights of EU citizens in Britain to stay put.
Their Lordships might even demand a second referendum on the precise terms of Brexit.
This idea was supported not just by Liberal Democrats and Scottish Nationalists but by other luminaries, including Lord Butler, a former cabinet secretary.