May avoids defeat in key Brexit bill

Alicia Cross
July 20, 2018

The prime minister secured her cabinet's backing for her Brexit plan at Chequers more than a week ago only to see two cabinet minister - Boris Johnson and David Davis - resign, and several junior ministers go, amid deep disagreements within the Conservatives over how closely the United Kingdom should remain aligned with the European Union after Brexit.

The MP for Uxbridge and South Ruislip resigned last week days after Cabinet ministers signed up to the PM's Chequers plan.

With support faltering, members of her own party, including her former BREXIT secretary, felt emboldened to ask sharp questions about her way forward.

In a much anticipated speech, Mr Johnson attacked the prime minister's approach but said she could still command support for her leadership.

It was the second consecutive day of close votes for May, who faced a similar challenge Monday from hard-liners, a measure of the tightening course she must navigate between the competing camps within her Conservative Party.

It comes as the new Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab faces off with the EU's Michel Barnier for the first time today - as Brussels raises threats of no deal chaos.

The government narrowly won three votes in parliament on trade and customs arrangements this week despite rebellions by pro-European members of her party.

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The bill gives the government the power to build new trade relationships around the world after the United Kingdom leaves the EU. Sterling rebounded from the day's lows against the dollar after the government sidestepped defeat on the amendment.

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A string of ministerial resignations followed, including that of former Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson and Brexit Secretary David Davis, the former still being touted by a replacement for May should a contest arise. "We have time in these negotiations, we have changed tack once and we can do so again", he told the House of Commons as his supporters crowded the nearby benches to show support.

The amendment would have required the government to try to negotiate a customs union arrangement with the EU if, by January 21, 2019, it had failed to negotiate a frictionless free trade deal with the bloc. We must try now because we will not have another chance to get this right'.

The prime minister insisted she was confident Britain had enough time to negotiate a deal with the European Union before leaving in March next year.

The bill gives the government the power to set up new global trade relationships after Britain leaves the European Union next March.

The BBC's chief political correspondent Vicki Young said Johnson's friends were insisting he was not trying to emulate Sir Geoffrey Howe, whose caustic resignation speech in 1990 is widely seen as having paved the way for Margaret Thatcher's downfall weeks later.

May's vulnerability in parliament, where she lost her party's majority in an ill-judged election previous year, was also laid bare on Monday when her decision to accept demands of hardline pro-Brexit lawmakers stirred a revolt among those who want to keep the closest possible ties in the EU.

"Problem is, I don't think that she's in charge anymore. We agreed to hand over a £40 billion exit fee, with no discussion of our future economic relationship".

Other reports by Free-Prsite

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