UK's May narrowly avoids defeat on EU customs union

Theresa May and DUP leader Arlene Foster visit a pottery north of the border

British Prime Minister Theresa May's ability to deliver Brexit has been thrown into doubt as infighting in her Conservative Party leaves her with a perilously small majority, staggering from one vote to the next.

If Mrs May loses the vote, the government will be forced to ensure Britain remains in a customs union with the EU if no agreement on trade is reached by January 2019.

Government whips overcame the rebellion by a dozen back-bench Tory lawmakers - reportedly issuing last-ditch threats it would prompt a no-confidence vote in the prime minister - and scraped through by six votes, winning by 307 to 301.

However, the government narrowly lost (305-to-301) a vote on the medicines regulatory regime, which means the United Kingdom will seek associate membership of the European Medicines Agency (EMA) and will in any event follow European regulation.

Twelve Tory "remainer" MPs rebelled against the party whip and backed the amendment while four Labour Brexit-supporting MPs rebelled against their party whip and backed the government.

She was slated to face more votes yesterday, including one on a proposal to send lawmakers on holiday early in what is seen as a tactic to avoid more plotting against her.

May has ruled out a customs union because membership would prevent Britain from striking free-trade deals with nations outside Europe, and her victory Tuesday will be a big relief for her.

She must now try to ensure that the United Kingdom continues to participate in the regulatory network operated by the European Medicines Agency. On Monday, May managed to narrowly win by three votes, relying on the votes of some anti-EU Labour MPs.




Of course the white paper was released prior to the amendments to UK Brexit legislation that will dictate its approach to trade and customs negotiations, therefore the white paper that Barnier struck a relatively constructive tone on has changed, and most likely changed for the worse in Barnier's view.

The UK government has voted on, and passed, an amendment bill to the latest Brexit strategy proposed by Prime Minister Theresa May, and the details of the amendment may make it harder for the UK to negotiate an easy split from the EU.

The prime minister's office defended the government's decision, saying that it was still consistent with the previous government policy.

David Davis, who quit as Brexit secretary just hours before Mr Johnson, did not take up the invitation, instead giving a series of TV interviews to explain his disagreements with the PM but also his personal backing for her.

The successful amendment requires Mrs May to make it an objective in negotiations with Brussels to ensure the United Kingdom can continue to participate in the regulatory network operated by the European Medicines Agency, which is being relocated from London to Amsterdam as a result of Brexit.

The government earlier lost by four votes on an amendment that demanded Britain try to stay within the European medicines regulatory network. He said the slender margin by which the vote was passed showed how important it was to continue to fight for a clean Brexit.

Turmoil over Brexit plans has hit the pound.

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