May's customs bill survives stormy waters

Lloyd Doyle
July 18, 2018

Some MPs have tabled an amendment to the Taxation (Cross-border Trade) Bill, also known as the customs bill, seeking a new customs union with the EU, which May has strongly rejected.

On BBC Radio 4's Today programme he urged Tory colleagues who "want to get on with Brexit" to acknowledge that the Bill was "essential" and should not be impeded.

It twice survived by just three votes after a backlash from pro-EU Tories who accused Theresa May of "caving in" to the party's Eurosceptic MPs.

There were 290 of the 316 Tory MPs who voted against new clause 17 and 292 who voted against new clause 18.

Eurosceptics will have a chance to show their strength in the House of Commons later Monday by voting on amendments to a bill setting up May s new customs regime after Brexit. The resignation by Scott Mann, junior minister in the Treasury, comes close on the heels of foreign secretary Boris Johnson and Brexit secretary David Davis quitting their posts and has taken the number of those leaving office since May outlined her plan to nine.

Pro-Europeans are also unhappy, including with the plan for loose ties with the European Union on Britain's dominant services sector, and former prime minister Tony Blair said it would lead to a "confused outcome".

One of the amendments would enshrine in law that there would be no customs border down the Irish Sea between the island of Ireland and the British mainland.

The EU has been urging since last December for the United Kingdom to agree to a so-called "backstop solution" on Ireland that would see Northern Ireland retain parts of the customs union and the single market necessary to keep the border invisible until a more permanent solution is found.

If the amendment had passed it would have thrown May’s Brexit strategy into disarray and increased pressure on the beleaguered leader to step down
May caves in to Brexiteer demands, risking 'no deal'

Parliament is scheduled to return on September 4 for seven working days, before closing again for nearly a month while the major parties hold their annual conferences.

Later in the day, May lost another, less symbolic, parliamentary vote called by pro-Europeans to ensure that British pharmaceutical companies would be regulated by the European Medicines Agency.

But Brexiteers criticised the proposal and warned it would "extend the uncertainty" over Britain's divorce from Brussels.

EU affairs ministers will soon have their first chance to discuss the UK's white paper, the UK's policy on its relationship with the EU after Brexit, and how they would tackle key issues, such as trade between the EU and UK.

The UK is due to leave the European Union on 29 March 2019 but has yet to agree how its final relationship with the bloc will work.

But 12 Conservatives broke ranks to back the customs union measure, even though Tory whips told would-be rebels that there would be a confidence vote if it passed - potentially resulting in the collapse of Mrs May's administration.

That deadline seems more and more elusive as British premier Theresa May is entangled in an ever-deepening leadership crisis.

Tuesday's legislation was technical in nature - focusing on converting trade deals between the European Union and third countries into bilateral deals with Britain - and was not originally meant to define new trade policy.

Other reports by Iphone Fresh

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