LONDON — Theresa May has triggered fury from Conservative remainers after caving in to pressure from pro-Brexit Conservative MPs to accept a series of rebel amendments to her customs bill.
The amendments relate to the customs section of the prime minister’s Brexit plan, unveiled at a meeting of ministers at Chequers last week.
Under May’s plan, the United Kingdom would collect EU tariffs on goods headed for the EU on the bloc’s behalf, in order to maintain the frictionless UK-EU border after Brexit.
Last week a group of pro-Brexit Conservative MPs, led by Jacob Rees-Mogg, tabled four amendments to the customs bill, in order to unpick the prime minister’s Chequers plan.
A government spokesperson said on Monday that May had agreed to accept all amendments, as the government believed they were „consistent” with the prime minister’s Brexit plan, agreed at Chequers last week.
However, the key amendment seeks to block the government from collecting „certain taxes or duties on behalf of territory without reciprocity,” which appears to block a key pillar of the prime minister’s customs plan.
The government’s decision to accept the amendments means it has avoided an embarrassing defeat in the House of Commons on Monday evening.
However, it is further evidence that her plans for a close relationship with the EU after Brexit face fierce opposition from a significant number of Conservative MPs.
A Conservative MP in the pro-Brexit European Research Group told BI that the amendments represented a „big win” and said they were preparing for a summer-long „ground war” in order to deal further blows to May’s plan.
Monday’s developments also cast doubt over whether May will ultimately be able to get her Brexit plan through Parliament.
Not only does the prime minister have pro-Brexit MPs in her own party to worry about, but pro-EU Conservatives who are preparing to join forces with Labour to force the government into pursuing a full customs union with the EU.