Brexit a 'disaster' for UK, peers warned
Peers were warned that it will be a "disaster" for Britain to leave the EU as they began detailed scrutiny of the Brexit Bill.
Labour's Lord Davies of Stamford clashed with Leave supporters as he hit out at the Government's "irrational" behaviour.
Lord Davies said retaining membership of the European Economic Area (EEA) would help mitigate the economic cost of leaving the EU.
But Tory former minister Lord Blencathra said the move would be a "betrayal" of all the people who voted to leave the EU in last year's referendum.
Lord Blencathra said that if the UK was in the EEA it would be still, in effect, in the EU with all the regulations still applying "lock, stock and barrel".
He warned: "We would not have control of our borders, our laws, our courts or much of our money."
The clash came as peers began two days of detailed committee stage debate on the European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill.
The legislation has already cleared the Commons unamended with big majorities and been given an unopposed second reading in the Lords.
But it is expected to face significant challenge by peers on key issues such as having a "meaningful" parliamentary vote on the Brexit deal and allowing EU nationals resident in the UK to remain.
The chamber was crowded as peers began debate on the first amendment and Lord Davies warned: "It is a disaster for our country to leave the EU and the economic costs have not begun to have been properly assessed."
Peers have been given stark warnings by the Government not to meddle with the legislation and put at risk Theresa May's timetable for triggering Article 50 and starting negotiations to quit by the end of next month.
But Lord Davies accused ministers of ignoring the golden rule of negotiation and behaving irrationally by closing down options open to them before the start of talks.
Labour's Lord Lea of Crondall, backing the move, said that through EEA membership, the UK could retain single market membership. He also cautioned ministers against prematurely ruling out options that could help boost trade and investment.
Labour former minister Baroness Quin said she would prefer Britain to remain in the single market and the EU but membership of the EEA was worth considering to avoid disruption.
Those voting to leave the EU in the referendum had not voted to make themselves poorer, she said.
But Tory former Cabinet minister Lord Forsyth of Drumlean said those backing Remain had argued before that membership of the EEA would be the "worst possible option" because "we would be bound by all the rules but have no say".