UK PM defeats rebels over plans to remain in EU customs union

Lloyd Doyle
July 17, 2018

MPs backed an amendment by 305 votes to 301 that would keep the United Kingdom in the European medicines regulatory network.

Downing Street insisted the amendments it had accepted were still consistent with the plans in the Chequers agreement but the move may limit the government's room for manoeuvre in exit talks with the EU.

The amendment to the Trade Bill could have forced May to negotiate membership of a customs union with the EU after Brexit.

Remainer Conservative MPs will try to soften the UK's Brexit policy with their own amendments to a key piece of Brexit legislation, the customs bill.

Boris Johnson, a rival to May, quit last week as foreign secretary in protest, while the man who had been leading the Brexit negotiations, David Davis, also quit in protest.

Barnier has warned that it will be hard to reach a conclusion in the negotiations by the October target.

The bill gives the government the power to build new trade relationships around the world after the United Kingdom leaves the EU.

The report stage of the bill will also see MPs debate a long-awaited amendment that would keep the United Kingdom in the EU customs union post-Brexit that is supported by Labour, the SNP, the Lib Dems and two Tory Remainers, Anna Soubry and Ken Clarke.

The party's European Research Group says it will reject any last attempts at compromise by Number 10 as they hope to force May to change course over Brexit or risk a no-confidence vote before the summer break by demonstrating the depth of their support.


"This could lead to a damaging and disorderly Brexit", she wrote.

The amendment, tabled by pro-EU Conservative MPs Stephen Hammond and Nicky Morgan, was defeated by 307 votes to 301.

May said the plan outlined in the white paper honors the wishes of British voters - who in June 2016 backed Brexit with 52 percent of the vote - while protecting industry and security.

"The inevitable outcome of the parliamentary arithmetic is that she will need to change it to keep the party united", he told BBC television. It could be debated by MPs when the bill returns from the Lords, they added.

"Some people are saying they want to vote in the trade bill to keep us in the customs union. That would be damaging to our "no deal" preparations".

European Union leaders urged preparedness for a possible no deal when they agreed at their summit last month to "step up their work on preparedness at all levels and for all outcomes".

Labour MP John Mann said some of his colleagues could back May's proposals.

"I suspect the Chequers deal is, in fact, dead", Conservative lawmaker Bernard Jenkin told the BBC.

"The Tory government is riding roughshod over the Scottish Parliament's voice on Brexit".

Other reports by Iphone Fresh

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