Remainer Lords vote to keep Britain in EU customs union in Brexit blow for Theresa May

Peers passed an amendment to the key legislation on our withdrawal which wants to force the Prime Minister to change her approach to negotiations with Brussels

REMAIN-BACKING peers have voted to keep Britain in the EU customs union after we leave as Theresa May suffered her first defeat in the House of Lords on her key Brexit legislation.

Peers passed an amendment which wants to force the Prime Minister to change her approach to negotiations with Brussels.

They won the vote by a whopping majority of more than 120, after voting by 347 to 225 in favour this afternoon.

Labour, the Liberal Democrats, Crossbenchers and two-dozen backbench Tories formed an alliance to pass the amendment.

Mrs May has repeatedly said she wants the UK to leave both the EU single market and the customs union when we exit the bloc.

The EU withdrawal bill, which could be altered further by the House of Lords today, will go back to the Commons where the PM will need to get it changed back in order to process with her plans for Brexit.

Brexit minister in the upper chamber Lord Callanan said the Government did not support the measures as it would require it to report to Parliament on the steps taken towards delivering an objective it has “clearly ruled out”.

And he also signalled the Government’s intention to overturn the measures at a later stage, saying before the vote it had no intention to “reflect further” on the matter.

Labour’s shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir Starmer welcomed the passing of the cross-party amendment as “an important step forward”.

He said: “Labour has long championed the benefits of a customs union as the only viable way to protect jobs, support manufacturing and help avoid a hard border in Northern Ireland after we leave the EU.

“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.”

But Richard Tice, co-chair of pro-Brexit group Leave Means Leave, said: “It is disappointing, but unsurprising, that unelected members of the House of Lords have continued in their quest to delay, dilute and disrupt Brexit, with damaging measures that affect the poorest in the UK most of all.

“The measure to compel the Prime Minister to keep the UK in a customs union with the EU is particularly outrageous, explicitly going against Government policy as approved in the Commons votes last year.”

He said keeping the UK in a customs union “handcuffs us to a protectionist bloc”, adding: “We hope that members of the House of Commons remember who their masters are – the British electorate – and duly overturn these obstructive Lords amendments.”

And a spokesman for the Department for Exiting the European Union said: “We are disappointed that parliament has voted for this amendment.

“The fundamental purpose of this bill is to prepare our statute book for exit day, it is not about the terms of our exit.

“This amendment does not commit the UK to remaining in a customs union with the EU, it requires us to make a statement in parliament explaining the steps we’ve taken.

Our policy on this subject is very clear.

“We are leaving the customs union and will establish a new and ambitious customs arrangement with the EU while forging new trade relationships with our partners around the world.”

April 18th, 2018: The Sun