Your Duty Is To Deliver Brexit, Nick Ferrari Tells Tory Remainer

Nicky Morgan

The battle over customs is far from over.

Laura Smith, MP for Crewe and Nantwich, was among 15 Labour MPs who voted with Theresa May to reject the EEA amendment.

Yesterday May agreed in principle to give MPs significant powers to shape the Brexit process.

After the resignation of justice minister Phillip Lee, who said he could not support the government's position on Brexit, it was said government whips feared a Tory rebellion on the "meaningful vote" amendment passed by the House of Lords.

Minutes later, all but two of the Tory MPs voted with the Government to reject a Lords amendment that would have given Parliament the power to tell the PM to go back and renegotiate the Brexit deal she secures from Brussels.

However, May is anxious about the prospect of a rebellion by pro-EU Conservative MPs who are determined to retain as numerous changes as possible.

But it was in the Labour Party where the deepest rifts were exposed.

She told Today: "What was agreed was the Prime Minister understood that Parliament wants to have a real say, in all circumstances, in relation to what's going to happen in the Brexit deal".

On the one hand, the die-hard Remainers say that they have been given assurances of new amendments to be tabled by the government in the Lords that will provide for a "meaningful vote" of some sort once negotiations with the European Union have been concluded.

However, May made a last minute offer to enter talks about accepting the bulk of an alternative rebel amendment which would give MPs more limited powers to prevent Britain from crashing out of the European Union without a deal.

Former attorney general Dominic Grieve also agreed, saying: "Not only will we have to stay in a form of customs arrangement amounting to a union, but we're also going to have to have a high level of regulatory alignment because otherwise the life that takes place along the border will be impossible because of different regulations on either side".

MPs started debating the amendments to the bill just after 1pm on June 12.

Pro-EU Conservative MPs, Anna Soubry and Nicky Morgan. That vote was not about actually remaining in the customs union, but only about keeping Parliament in the loop.

A commitment that there will be no "physical infrastructure, including border posts, or checks and controls" in Northern Ireland has effectively killed a no deal scenario with the EU, MPs have heard. So the amendment doesn't look likely to pass.

But she faces a gruelling bout of "parliamentary ping-pong" with the Lords, as the Bill bounces back and forth between the two Houses over the coming weeks.

Dr Lee said "evidence, not dogma" should dictate the Government's approach to Brexit.

A House of Commons showdown on customs between Tory Remainers and Brexiteers is now expected when a separate customs and trade bill is debated by MPs.

In response to the votes, Lib Dem leader Sir Vince Cable accused Labour of conspiring with the Conservatives to "wave through a hard Brexit".

This winnable cross-party amendment on staying in the European Economic Area was opposed by Labour on the pretext that joining the EEA prevents the United Kingdom being in a customs union with the EU.

Mr Kyle added that he will not vote against his Brexiteer colleague if there is a meaningful vote. However, the party is divided on the issue, with a total of 89 Labour MPs choosing to defy Corbyn.

The logic of that argument is that EU negotiator Michel Barnier would prefer the softest of Brexits - a model known as "Norway plus", in which Britain remains in the European Economic Area (EEA) and the customs union, accepting all single market rules, including freedom of movement, and the EU's trade policy without any representation in Brussels.

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