Theresa May avoids major Brexit defeat on customs union amendment

Galtero Lara
Julio 17, 2018

Labour backs the idea of a customs union with the EU after Brexit - but the government says this would mean the United Kingdom is unable to strike its own global trade deals.

But they prompted a total of eight resignations, including that of Brexit secretary David Davis and foreign secretary Boris Johnson, and a growing threat to the prime minister.

Despite her party being in turmoil, it is possible that Theresa May will be able to make it to the summer break unscathed.

In extraordinary scenes, the trade minister George Hollingbery engaged in open negotiations with the customs union rebels from the dispatch box, offering them a Lords amendment for a "customs arrangement" backstop if they backed down.

Downing Street has insisted its Brexit strategy is still alive after the Prime Minister was forced change to crucial trade legislation under pressure from Eurosceptic Conservative MPs.

But one MP told AFP they would likely not push it to a vote on Monday, instead waiting to see what the eurosceptics do. He said that he had taken the "very hard decision" to resign "to express discontent" in votes. He added: "I can not tell the people of WOxon [West Oxfordshire] that I support the proposals in their current form".

A spokesperson for Theresa May reiterated the leader's belief that her plan for leaving the European Union was the only way to get a deal that meets the government's needs.

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Reports at the weekend suggested that about 40 of the 48 MPs needed had lodged no-confidence letters with the chairman of the party's backbench 1922 Committee after May had indicated that the United Kingdom was prepared to sign up to a "common rule book" for food and goods after Brexit.

Tory Remainers claimed the government was being held to ransom by 40 MPs and that Jacob Rees-Mogg appeared to be running the country rather than the Prime Minister. She added: "I have always said I'm in this for the long term".

However, in a seperate result the government was defeated on an amendment to keep Britain in the European Medicines Agency - the EU agency covering medicine regulations - by 305 votes to 301.

It remains far from clear whether Brussels will accept her plans.

The skirmishes are expected to continue Tuesday when a trade bill is debated.

Key New Labour figures have also come forward in criticising the prime minister, with former leader Tony Blair branding the proposals "just mush".

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