British Prime Minister Theresa May gave in to demands from her party’s hardliners on Monday, accepting four amendments that would limit the government’s ability to set up customs arrangements with the European Union after Britain leaves the bloc in March 2019.
Lawmakers in the lower House of Commons voted 305 to 302 in favor of the amendments to the Taxations (Cross-Border Trade) Bill and later passed the entire legislation in a 318 to 285 vote.
The amendments preclude the British government from collecting EU tariffs on goods that travel through Britain on their way to the bloc unless the EU also agrees to collect British tariffs on goods destined for Britain.
Sacrifice for a legislative win
The prime minister accepted the amendments in an attempt to save a vote on the cross-border trade and taxation bill, which appeared to be heading for a defeat before the vote.
Conservative lawmakers from the European Research Group, a coalition of up to 60 right-wingers in favor of a clean break with the EU, targeted the law to push the government toward a “hard” EU exit.
Downing Street defended the government’s decision to accept the four amendments, saying that it was still consistent with previous government policy.
Pro-EU conservatives disappointed
Opposition lawmakers and some Conservative Party members in favor of closer ties to the EU after Britain’s departure rebuked May for accepting the amendments.
Pro-EU Conservative lawmaker Anna Soubry accused May of caving in because she was “frightened” the European Research Group’s ability to defy the government. May has a razor thin 13-seat working majority, which relies on an agreement with the Northern Irish Democratic Unionist Party (DUP).
Monday’s vote once again exposed deep divisions within the Conservative Party over Brexit following recent resignations by prominent cabinet members David Davis and Boris Johnson.
The legislative battle is likely to continue into Tuesday, when lawmakers turn their attention to another Brexit-related trade bill.
jcg/amp (AP, AFP, dpa)
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