Weakened, May defeats final Brexit challenges in parliament

Lester Mason
June 14, 2018

A section of Labour MPs are expected to defy the official party position and vote in favor of a Lords amendment to keep the United Kingdom in a Norway-style trading arrangement, better known as the European Economic Area (EEA), post-Brexit.

Attempts to keep the United Kingdom in the European Economic Area after Brexit have been defeated in the House of Commons, amid a major Labour revolt over the issue.

But, the pro-EU MPs' version of what they were promised appears to differ from what they government says it offered, threatening to reignite the dispute and reviving the possibility of a revolt that would badly damage May's authority. Attention has focused on June 12 on the so-called "meaningful vote" amendment, which would give parliament the power to decide what to do if it rejects the final Brexit deal.

Lawmakers supported the government's position to reject amendments to the EU withdrawal bill that challenged May's commitment to leave the bloc's customs union and single market, leaving the overall shape of her Brexit strategy intact that will transform Britain's trading relationships for decades.

May is resisting changes approved by the House of Lords that would soften Britain's exit from the European Union, because she says they will weaken the government's negotiating position.

"Where some of its most senior people who hold the greatest offices of state, at every twist and turn, when our Prime Minister moves towards securing a Brexit that will serve everybody in our country, the softest, most sensible Brexit, both publicly and privately they undermine her and scupper her attempts".

Here are the key amendments which MPs voted on Wednesday evening.

However, the compromise is only likely to delay a full-blown showdown on the customs union until trade legislation returns to the Commons in July. Other flashpoints in the parliamentary votes include proposals to keep Britain tightly aligned with the E.U.'s economy.

Pro-EU Conservative MPs, Anna Soubry and Nicky Morgan.


Remain-supporting Dr Lee quit as justice minister live on stage during a speech in London, saying he could not support "how our country's exit from the European Union looks set to be delivered".

Mr. Lee resigned from the Ministry of Justice to back the amendment, saying parliament should be able to direct the government to change course. Theresa May has said no British government would ever agree to a hard border there.

In response to the votes, Lib Dem leader Sir Vince Cable accused Labour of conspiring with the Conservatives to "wave through a hard Brexit".

Mr McDonnell also sought to allay business concerns about the prospect of a Labour government, insisting that he would be "open and transparent" about the party's policies and there was "nothing up my sleeve". It was a measure of the division in the party that out of 257 Labour MPs, 90 ignored that instruction and voted.

In a statement, Corbyn defended his decision to oppose the EEA vote, despite telling his MPs to abstain in parliament.

Laura Smith resigned from her junior shadow cabinet role in the run-up to the vote.

Supporters of the EEA argue it would give the United Kingdom the closest possible relationship with the European Union without actually being a member, as it would offer full access to the single market.

The 15 Labour EEA opponents included Frank Field, Caroline Flint and Dennis Skinner.

Other reports by Iphone Fresh

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