Pro-Remain Tories rebel over EU Customs Union debate

Pro-Remain Tories rebel over EU Customs Union debate

British lawmakers will today debate a motion sponsored by both the Conservative and Labour parties that seeks the legal obligation

Theresa May

Photo: Bloomberg

British lawmakers will today debate a motion sponsored by both the Conservative and Labour parties that seeks the legal obligation of PM Theresa May’s government to negotiate to remain in the EU Customs Union (EUCU).

Britain’s remaining within the EUCU would essentially restrict its ability to negotiate trade deals outside of the EU, a driving force for hard Brexit proponents. In March, May ruled out Britain’s staying within the union.

Although today’s motion is nonbinding, it risks weakening May’s hands in ongoing Brexit negotiations, a development that would indicate Downing Street is amenable to parliamentary pressure forcing its negotiating hand. Morale is already high among pro-Remain MPs after winning three anti-Brexit motions, including keeping key aspects of EU law in UK domestic law post-Brexit in the House of Lords in the past week.

Downing Street continues to reaffirm that Brexit means no customs union at all, and hard-Brexiteers have threatened to challenge May’s leadership if she backslides. However, a Remainer win today will not denote well for the binding vote next month on whether Britain is in or out of the EUCU. Expect EU negotiators to be watching intently.