Theresa May is facing defeat at the hands of a group of rebel Tory MPs over her Brexit plans.
The group is backing an amendment to the Trade Bill, tabled by MP Anna Soubry, mandating the UK to form a customs union with Brussels on leaving the EU.
The move has received cross-party backing from pro-European MPs, including from Labour’s Chuka Umunna, who has spoken regularly about his opposition to a hard Brexit.
I've tabled a new amendment to #TradeBill mandating Govt to form "a" Customs Union with #EU #Brexit. It's gaining x party support @ChukaUmunna @NickyMorgan01 et al. It would be in the national interest if the Government & official Opposition also backed it. https://t.co/DepbwMoKUf
— Anna Soubry MP (@Anna_Soubry) February 22, 2018
And Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn is widely predicted to give his blessing to a customs union arrangement with the EU in his own speech on Monday, in which he is expected to give greater clarity on his party’s Brexit policy.
Shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry said Labour now backs a customs union which would look “pretty much like” the current one after withdrawal.
The blow comes after the PM’s Brexit ‘war cabinet’ finally came to an agreement over what it wants out of the UK’s exit from the European Union after eight hours of crunch talks at the Prime Minister’s country residence.
Following the marathon meeting a Chequers, the Cabinet is understood to have agreed on a policy of ‘managed divergence’, with one minister saying that everyone present was ‘rather happy’.
Now, both Brexiteers and Remainers are claiming the outcome as a triumph for their own team.
‘Managed divergence’ would see Britain broadly matching EU rules in a number of industries, while maintaining the ‘right to diverge’ from them in certain instances.
One Brexit-leaning source sold the result as a victory for Eurosceptics, saying that ‘divergence has won the day’, according to The Times.
Remainers on the other hand trumpeted a success for compromise, pointing out that although Britain would have the right to diverge from EU rules, it would choose not to do so for the sake of protecting British businesses.
Another boost for Remainers came from the PM’s treatment of hard champion Brexit Boris Johnson – Mrs May was ‘firm with Boris’, according to the BBC.
Speaking to the Today Programme this morning Jeremy Hunt, who was not present at the talks, said that good progress had been made.
‘What I’ve been able to glean, as you say I wasn’t there, is that it was a very positive discussion and I think we have made good progress,’ he said.
‘I think the central understanding – you have divergent views on a big issue like Brexit as you would expect – but the central common understanding is that there will be areas and sectors of industry where we agree to align our regulations with European regulations: the automotive industry is perhaps an obvious example because of supply chains that are integrated.
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‘But it will be on a voluntary basis, we will as a sovereign power have the right to choose to diverge and what we won’t be doing is accepting changes in rules because the EU unilaterally chooses to make those changes.’
Downing Street is now understood to be looking at proposals to offer all EU citizens who come to the UK during the Brexit transition period the same rights as those who arrive before the official exit date.
Arch Eurosceptic Jacob Rees Mogg hit back at the plans this morning, warning the PM that allowing EU citizens arriving in Britain during the post-Brexit transition period to remain in the country under current free movement rules would be “unconscionable”.
He said: ‘Mrs May said when she was in China that she wasn’t going to do that and that people who came after we’d left would be subject to different conditions, which seems absolutely right.
‘You’ve got to remember we are leaving the European Union on March 29 (2019), we will be out of the treaties on that day, we will not have any say in the rules that are made and, therefore, people who come after that day ought not to be allowed to have the full and permanent free movement rights.
‘That would be quite wrong and they will know the conditions on which they come, which is important, so it’s fair to people who come after that date.
‘I’d be astonished if Mrs May would make a u-turn of that kind, she is a lady of great backbone and for her to kowtow to the European Union is, I think, unconscionable.’