UK's House of Lords votes to amend Brexit bill over customs union

19 Abril, 2018, 00:57 | Author: Enrique Watson
  • Nicky Morgan the Tory chairwoman of the Treasury select committee signed the amendment to the customs bill

The British government's Brexit department Wednesday night brushed off what was their first major defeat in the unelected House of Lords.

"All the serious amendments have got a Tory, a crossbencher, a Lib Dem and a Labour peer: the whole house has been covered", Hayter said on Monday in an interview in Parliament.

Peers voted by 348 to 225 for a cross-party amendment to the EU (Withdrawal) Bill to require the Government to say how its negotiations with Brussels will continue the crucial tariff-free trade arrangement with the European Union.

The lords did not explicitly say that Britain must reach a deal on such a union, and Brexit campaigners called it a ploy to embolden EU backers in the House of Commons to press their case for May to reverse her position and support a customs union.

The government is preparing a climbdown over its key Brexit bill in the House of Lords over European Union rules on clinical trials, as it braces itself for a series of defeats.

"If in the end we do leave, it should be in a way that limits the damage to the country's well-being. and that's why I believe it makes sense for the government to be asked to explore customs unions", said Lord (John) Kerr who backed the Remain in the EU campaign in the 2016 referendum.

"A failure to do so however, will amount to kicking the can down what could be a very rocky road", she said in a statement.

"Labour has long championed the benefits of a customs union as the only viable way to protect jobs, support manufacturing and help avoid a hard border in Northern Ireland after we leave the EU".

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Sky's Political Editor Faisal Islam said the size of the defeat is "bad news" for the Government and suggests there will be many more such amendments when the bill returns to the Commons next month.

It's unclear whether the amendment will survive when the bill becomes law.

But peers across the house made the case for remaining within a customs union.

Shadow Brexit Secretary Keir Starmer said: "The passing of this cross-party amendment is an important step forward". May's trade minister, Liam Fox, and others see such a deal as anathema if it prevents London negotiating its own trade deals.

It's still not clear how the government would react to a defeat, and to what extent the amendments will force May to change her policy. "I don't think we will do better than we are doing within the customs union".

It seeks to keep open the option of Britain staying in a form of customs union with the EU, something Prime Minister Theresa May is against.

With talks on a future trade deal getting underway in Brussels this week, and with her team gaining in confidence after winning worldwide support for her tough stance on Syria, May might hope she can weather the embarrassment.

It is understood that government ministers will give an assurance that the regulation will be transferred into United Kingdom law after Brexit, thereby ensuring vital research can still go ahead.

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