PM suffers embarrassing Brexit bill defeat in House of Lords

PM suffers embarrassing Brexit bill defeat in House of Lords

Labour said it wanted the government to think again on key aspects of the bill by passing amendments which would have to be reconsidered by MPs before the legislation can become law.

"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".

According to one of her former officials, May could seek a compromise on a customs deal if it meant safeguarding the United Kingdom by preventing the return of a hard border with Ireland, which remains an European Union member.

What is the customs union?

May also suffered a costly rebellion from 24 Conservative MPs who broke party ranks and voted to support the amendment.

"If in the end we do leave, it should be in 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, a supporter of staying in the EU at the 2016 referendum.

"The fundamental objective of this Bill is to prepare our statute book for exit day, it is not about the terms of our exit".

This could involve getting a re-write of the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill to include a cross-party amendment that would require ministers to negotiate "an arrangement which enables the United Kingdom to continue participating in a customs union with the EU".

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The unelected House of Lords voted 348 to 225 on Wednesday afternoon on an amendment to the EU Withdrawal Bill.

HM Parliament Brexit minister Lord Callanan warned he would not give "false hope" over concessions despite the vote.

The Independent newspaper in London said peers had inflicted an embarrassing defeat on the government after voting in favor of remaining in a customs union with the EU after Brexit.

Lawmaker Anna Soubry, a former Conservative business minister who has put her name to amendments to other bills in the lower chamber pushing for a customs union, retweeted a Twitter post saying "Lords batter the govt".

He said Vote Leave made it "absolutely clear" that leaving the EU meant leaving the customs union and single market.

The bill, which was approved by MPs previous year, has reached report stage in the House of Lords - where the government does not have a majority and is vulnerable to defeat if Labour, Lib Dems and rebel Tories join forces with crossbenchers. "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.

A string of heavyweight Tories, including former Chancellors Lord Lamont and Lawson, argued that the amendment would undermine the Government's negotiating stance.

He said the disadvantages of being in a customs union are "threefold": "Operating inappropriate tariffs, not having autonomy over domestic rules and goods, and three, not being able to conclude trade agreements".

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