British PM survives Brexit trade bill revolt

BREXIT BRIEFING | ANALYSISJuly 19 2018 12:00pm The Times Brussels moves to solve border dramanew Bruno Waterfield

Her government on Monday avoided a humiliating defeat in Parliament when it narrowly won another vote over her Brexit customs bill - but only after reluctantly accepting amendments put forward by Brexit hardliners.

Twelve rebel Tory MPs backed an amendment to keep Britain in a customs union with the EU should May fail to strike a deal with Brussels on frictionless trade by late January.

Their amendment requires the Government to make it a negotiating objective in talks with the EU to secure continued United Kingdom participation in the EU medicines regulatory network partnership involving the European Medicines Agency.

The MPs wanted the United Kingdom to join a customs union if it does not agree a free-trade deal with the EU.

Tories including Nick Boles and Sir Nicholas Soames have already indicated they will vote against the government over the recess motion.

May's plan has drawn criticism from members of her party as well as pro-Brexit members. "The Bill is an important part of preparing for the world after Brexit and I would have thought that all colleagues would respect the fact that we need to get those preparations in place whilst having this important negotiation to make sure that our trading arrangement can continue to support prosperity in the future".

Brexiteers believe that keeps Britain too close to the European Union, while pro-Europeans think it fails to protect the country's dominant services sector, among other gripes.

The Commons has been debating two pieces of legislation - on customs and trade - and there have been several attempts to change them by both pro-Brexit and pro-EU MPs.

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Yet, Mr Hammond and the Remainers stood firm and pushed the amendment to a division, with the House of Commons vote accompanied by reports of "awful" threats and "extreme verbal bullying" by Tory whips.

Since the Chequers agreement, May had lost ten government members, including from the cabinet Brexit secretary David Davis and foreign minister Boris Johnson.

May averted defeat on the proposed legislation - part of a series of bills overseeing Britain's withdrawal from the European Union - by bowing to pressure from hardline eurosceptics in her own party.

And he insisted: "I am simply asking the prime minister to hold to the pledges that she has made and to keep the government true to the commitments it has made".

The move infuriated pro-European Conservatives, sowing the seeds for Tuesday's unsuccessful rebellion.

Britain's Prime Minister, Theresa May speaks at the Farnborough Airshow, in Farnborough, Britain July 16, 2018.

"However, I believe it is a basis on which more serious negotiations can now start".

Green Party co-leader Caroline Lucas, a leading supporter of the People's Vote campaign for a second referendum, said Brexit had "sunk further into the Westminster quagmire".

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