May 23, 2018

Customs union showdown is important - here's why

24 April 2018, 04:01 | Simon Arnold

GETTYThe Tory MP who has rebelled against the Government on Brexit votes

The Tory MP

Any changes to the bill will return to the elected House of Commons for debate, likely in May, when pro-European members of the ruling Conservative party will have to decide whether to make a stand.

However, Health and Social Care Secretary Jeremy Hunt rejected such reports, telling Sky News: "We are not going to be part of the customs union or a customs union because she (Mrs May) thinks if we did that we would not be delivering the Brexit that the British people voted for".

The confirmation comes ahead of a symbolic parliamentary debate on the issue later this week.

Last week's defeat, the first of two on that day, increased pressure on May to reconsider her refusal to remain in a customs union with the EU.

Remainer MPs hope that Irish and EU negotiators will hold out for a solution to the Border issue that keeps the whole of the United Kingdom in a customs union.

A leading figure in the Conservative Party and a strong supporter of the Remain campaign, former Secretary of Business and Justice Ken Clarke, has urged members of his party to ignore the PM's ultimatum in statements to the British media and supported what he considers her moves to remain in the Customs Union, thereby pursuing a "Soft Brexit" with Europe as opposed to a "Hard Brexit".

However, Mrs May said she wants to leave the trade regime, claiming the United Kingdom can make better trade agreements with countries such as the USA and Australia outside the bloc.

Lawmakers will have to decide whether to back the government or reject the agreement - with the risk that Britain could crash out of the European Union next year without any deal in place.

MPs vote on a motion to compel the government to drop its policy on the customs union later this week.

The Irish border is a key element of their case.

The amendment requires ministers to explain the steps taken to negotiate Britain's continued participation in a customs union with Brussels.

Crucially, keeping the customs union would also "go some way to resolving the thorny question of the Irish border, and would allow the United Kingdom to keep its red line of controlling immigration", says Bloomberg.

Shadow Brexit minister Paul Bloomfield said: "This is a welcome decision from the House of Lords". After all, this would be a huge gamble given we are in a hung parliament.

Brexiteers have been muttering about making next month's votes confidence votes, something that is impossible under the Fixed Term Parliaments Act.

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