Pro-EU MPs lobby for customs union 

Pro-EU MPs lobby for customs union 

UK MPs are taking on Prime Minister Theresa May over Brexit by holding a Commons debate calling to remain in a customs union with the European Union.

Pro-Remain MPs who chair select committees have tabled a motion calling on the government to keep trade options open in Brexit negotiations, allowing tariff-free trade to continue with the bloc.

However, as the debate is deemed to be a backbench event, the government will abstain if there is a vote and insist it is not binding.

While the vote will not be legally binding, it carries huge symbolic weight, because it will show the strength of opposition among MPs to May’s plan for a hard Brexit.

Brexit supporters say remaining in any EU trade union will force Britain into becoming a “vassal state”.

More important votes in the lower house on the customs union will come in May when the EU (Withdrawal) Bill returns from the unelected House of Lords.

Labour ex-minister Meg Hillier, who chairs the Public Accounts Committee, said: “I chair a cross-party select committee made up of four parties who all voted different ways on Brexit. Some voted for, some voted against.

“But we are united in our concern about how ill prepared the government is for Brexit and customs and the border.

“Frankly, if they don’t get their act together it’s very difficult to know how practically they can do that in the time left. There will be chaos at the borders.”

Former Conservative attorney general Dominic Grieve, who chairs the Intelligence and Security Committee, said: “We have our views. I have my views. I regret the outcome of the referendum.

“But I am respectful of the decision and realise it’s going to happen. It’s not my role to sabotage it, but it’s my role as a parliamentarian to participate in debates and try to shape public opinion in what is a difficult, complex and very risky process on which we are embarking.”

His fellow Conservative Sarah Wollaston also said she was backing the debate.

“I’m not voting to make my constituents poorer and to prevent businesses being able to trade as quickly and smoothly with their biggest market,” she tweeted after the motion was published.

“If government can produce convincing evidence that their new deals will replace what is lost then let’s see it.”

 

 

Anti-Brexit protesters in Manchester last year. Picture credit: Eurasia Times

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