Hardline Brexiters demand amendments to trade bill

European Research Group wants MPs to kill off facilitated customs arrangement

Angry hardline Brexiters have submitted four amendments to the government’s trade bill, arguing that Theresa May has broken their trust with the soft Brexit negotiating plan she unveiled at Chequers.

The European Research Group (ERG) fronted by Jacob Rees Mogg wants MPs to kill off May’s facilitated customs arrangement in an amendment to Monday’s bill, which calls for the UK to refuse to collect duties for the EU unless member states do likewise.

A second amendment, which is backed by the DUP and Labour’s Kate Hoey, would force the government to agree in law to a commitment to never having a border in the Irish sea, which would kill off an EU proposal allowing Northern Ireland to remain in the customs union.

Rees Mogg said the amendments to the taxation (cross-border trade) bill had become necessary after May’s Chequers plan emerged. “Unfortunately, Chequers was a breakdown in trust. Brexit meant Brexit, but now it appears Brexit means remaining subject to European laws. I believe this will help the government stick to the promises it made,” the MP told the Sun.

Winning the backing of the DUP for one of the amendments is particularly significant because the Northern Irish unionist party had promised to support May’s government in confidence votes and Brexit policy, after the Conservatives lost their overall majority in the 2017 election.

Hard Brexiters have pledged to mount a campaign of guerrilla warfare against May’s government in an attempt to disrupt the soft Brexit proposal unveiled at Chequers, in which she proposed that the UK would share a “common rule book” of standards on food and goods after Brexit.

The amendments amount to a show of strength by hardline Brexiters, although it is not clear if they will command any wider support. In February, 62 Tory MPs from the ERG signed a letter demanding that the UK achieves full regulatory autonomy after Brexit. To have any chance of passing the amendments, the group would need the support of Labour and other opposition parties.

That is more than the 48 required to trigger a no-confidence vote in May, if unhappy MPs were to lodge a formal objection with the chair of the party’s backbench 1922 committee. However, it is far fewer than half of the party’s 316 MPs, the number required to win such a vote.

The other amendments would require the government to draw up primary legislation if the UK wants to remain in the EU customs union; the fourth would require the UK to have an independent regime for VAT.


Dan Sabbagh

The GuardianTramp

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