UK government loses key votes on Brexit bill

MPs support amendment calling for UK to remain in customs union

UK government loses key votes on Brexit bill

World Bulletin / News Desk

UK Prime Minister Theresa May suffered two major defeats Wednesday after most members of the upper House of Parliament adopted an amendment supporting continued membership in the EU customs union after Brexit.

The amendment to the EU Withdrawal Bill, which passed by 348 votes to 225, forces the government to report to Parliament by Oct. 31 on what steps it has taken to remain in the customs union.

May also suffered a costly rebellion from 24 Conservative MPs who broke party ranks and voted to support the amendment. They included former cabinet ministers Lord Heseltine, Lord Willetts and Lord Patton, who are staunchly pro-EU.

“The passing of this cross-party amendment is an important step forward. Theresa May must now listen to the growing chorus of voices who are urging her to drop her red line on a customs union and rethink her approach,” Keir Starmer, the shadow Brexit secretary, told the Guardian news site.

“Looking further afield is well worth doing, but it will be very hard not to see a fall in overall exports if our trade with the EU is made more complicated, and it will be much more complicated if we leave the customs union. We must try to limit the damage of our nearest, because closest, market,” Starmer added.

May had previously said that the UK will not remain in the customs union once Brexit takes effect.

The bill will now pass back to the House of Commons, where there is growing support for efforts to force May to reverse her position on the customs union.

“We are disappointed that parliament has voted for this amendment. The fundamental purpose of this bill is to prepare our statute book for exit day. It is not about the terms of our exit. This amendment does not commit the UK to remaining in a customs union with the EU. It requires us to make a statement in parliament explaining the steps we’ve taken,” a spokesperson from the Department for Exiting the European Union told the Guardian.


A separate amendment to guarantee that existing protections in areas including employment and consumer standards cannot be changed except through primary legislation also passed.


The EU withdrawal bill is aimed at transferring EU law into UK law ahead of Brexit. It also grants the government sweeping powers to change it.

UK and EU officials also met this week to discuss the UK’s future trading relationship with the EU. The trade talks began a little more than a year after May triggered Article 50, the clause that begins the process of exiting the EU.

Last Mod: 19 Nisan 2018, 10:19
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