May narrowly avoids Brexit defeat again as MPs reject EU customs union

Tonight the government narrowly avoided defeat over Brexit again as parliament rejected the customs union amendment laid down by Remainer Tories.

The legislation change would have committed the UK to joining a customs union had it not been able to strike a free trade deal with the EU by January 2019.

Theresa May loyalists and hard Brexiteers argued that the amendment would have prevented the UK from striking international trade deals.

Four Labour MPs – Frank Field, Kate Hoey, John Mann and Graham Stringer – (plus currently suspended Kelvin Hopkins) joined the majority of Tories in the voting lobby to defeat the customs union amendment, ‘New Clause 18’.

12 Remainer Tory MPs rebelled against the party whip: Heidi Allen, Guto Bebb, Ken Clarke, Jonathan Djanogly, Dominic Grieve, Stephen Hammond, Dr Philip Lee, Nicky Morgan, Robert Neill, Antoinette Sandbach, Anna Soubry, Dr Sarah Wollaston.

Reacting to the defeat of New Clause 18, Shadow Secretary of State for International Trade Barry Gardiner commented: “The government’s handling of Brexit over the past week has been an utter shambles. We have a Prime Minister who is in office, but not in power.

“Each day that ministers waste arguing amongst themselves increases the risk of the UK crashing out of Europe without an agreement.

“Labour is clear that a new comprehensive customs union with the EU after Brexit is the best way to protect jobs, the economy and to avoid a hard border in Northern Ireland. Theresa May should finally accept that and get on with the job of negotiating for Britain.”

Theresa May did, however, lose a key Brexit vote in the Commons for only the second time when MPs tonight voted in favour of remaining in the European medicines regulatory framework. The trade bill’s ‘New Clause 17’, which no Labour MPs voted against, was passed with a majority of four votes.

More from LabourList