May's Brexit plan on knife-edge as defeat avoided by 6 votes

Daniel Fowler
July 18, 2018

The leading Tory Remainer called threats of another general election or vote of no confidence in the PM "nonsense" but said the government "simply can not go on like this".

One EU official said the extension could be given if member states see United Kingdom negotiators committed to hammering out a deal day and night.

The paper also proposes a new customs arrangement with Brussels, whereby the United Kingdom would collect tariffs on behalf of the European Union for goods ultimately going there.

The close shave was May's third this week as she presents legislation on one of the most important and divisive decisions in modern British history with only a minority government, and her Conservative Party at war with itself. In an interview published in the pro-Brexit Sun, Trump said May's soft-Brexit strategy threatened any future US/UK trade deal.

Daniel Kawczynski, MP for Shrewsbury and Atcham, supported the amendment.

He said: "The margin is closing on these votes and we will keep at it".

The Guardian newspaper described extraordinary scenes in the House of Commons with government trade minister George Hollingbery engaged in open negotiations with the customs union rebels, urging them to back down.

"I've also been clear we will not accept the imposition of any border down the Irish Sea and we will preserve the integrity of the UK's internal market and Northern Ireland's place within it". Vote Leave disputed the findings and characterized them as politically motivated.

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The indictments raised the stakes for the Helsinki summit, even as aides to both Trump and Putin ratcheted down expectations. Adding to the intrigue surrounding the summit, Russia's Ministry of Foreign Affairs tweeted its agreement.

Theresa May will meet farmers and business people along the frontier where she will hear concerns about Brexit and give her views on the way forward.

But Sinn Féin deputy leader Michelle O'Neill said the British government had "tore up" its own Brexit proposals and she called on the taoiseach to protect Ireland's interests.

The prospect of continued drama in parliament and doubts over the future of May's "white paper" Brexit plan - which is itself only a starting point for talks with the European Union - is testing the patience of businesses that depend on cross-border trade.

North Shropshire's Owen Paterson, an arch-eurosceptic, agreed with Mr Kawczynski that leaving the European Union without a trade deal and falling back on World Trade Organisation rules was nothing to be afraid of.

Labour's Chris Leslie (Nottingham East) said many other countries with which the United Kingdom enjoyed free trade agreements by virtue of its membership of the EU customs union were now starting to say they would like a few significant changes. The UK as a whole being in a customs union with the EU is a necessary requirement to achieve this.

Mark Pritchard, MP for the Wrekin, said he supported the Prime Minister's handling of the negotiations.

It is a long-standing parliamentary convention that ministers who quit the cabinet are given the opportunity to address the House to explain their reasons for doing so. "The big prize is still Brexit, but not a Brexit that increases prices and lowers the UK's standard of living".

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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