Brexit tests for Theresa May as premiership hangs in the balance

Frederick Owens
July 18, 2018

"There is not going to be a second referendum ... under any circumstances", the spokesman told reporters.

The win is the second for May in two days, as her government avoided defeat in Parliament on a separate bill.

If Mrs May loses the vote, the government will be forced to ensure Britain remains in a customs union with the EU if no agreement on trade is reached by January 2019. Another pro-EU lawmaker Dominic Grieve, who has led previous efforts to get the government to soften its Brexit stance, said the party needed to accept compromises "or accept that Brexit can not be implemented and think again about what we are doing".

On Monday, MPs vote on the Taxation (Cross-Border Trade) Bill.

Ministers argued the amendment would put "massive restrictions" on its ability to forge "an independent trade policy" after Britain leaves the European Union next March.

But Downing Street, which agreed earlier to accept the four amendments, said they were "consistent" with the White Paper where it sets out how it wants to trade with the European Union in years to come. The government, which does not have a Commons majority, has been under pressure from MPs on both sides of the Brexit debate.

Theresa May's government has narrowly avoided defeat on its Customs Bill, after it twice survived by just three votes (305-302) following demands from pro-Brexit MPs to change its wording.

Tory former minister Jonathan Djanogly, who tabled amendments created to curb ministerial powers in the Bill, welcomed the government's amendments and said he would support them.

More news: Theresa May's Brexit plan in turmoil | Ireland

Applying EU tariffs to products destined for the EU is part of Mrs May's plan to avoid friction at United Kingdom borders after Brexit.

The amendment from Conservative MP Philip Lee, who resigned from the government in protest over Brexit, requires the government to seek continued United Kingdom participation in the EU medicines regulations involving the European Medicines Agency.

Labour MP Mary Creagh also threw her weight behind a no vote, saying "this is no time for a holiday", while SNP MP Dr Philippa Whitford accused Mrs May of wanting an early recess "because she is running scared".

Twelve Conservative MPs rebelled against the government to vote for a proposal that would have kept the United Kingdom in the customs union if no alternative plan for frictionless trade with the EU had been agreed by January 2019.

Government whips overcame the rebellion by a dozen Tory lawmakers - reportedly issuing last-ditch threats it would prompt a no-confidence vote in the prime minister - by just seven votes.

Guto Bebb, Heidi Allen, Kenneth Clarke, Jonathan Djanogly, Dominic Grieve, Stephen Hammond, Phillip Lee, Nicky Morgan, Bob Neill, Antoinette Sandbach, Anna Soubry and Sarah Wollaston - broke ranks to back the customs union measure.

Global trade minister George Hollingbery, introducing the Bill at report stage on behalf of the government, said the legislation was about "continuity".

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