Tory turmoil as Brexit plans spark fresh ministerial resignation
Theresa May scraped through Commons votes on customs with support from Labour MPs.
Theresa May was hit by a fresh ministerial resignation as she scraped through crucial Brexit votes hours after “caving in” to Eurosceptic demands.
The Prime Minister saw off defeat by just three votes on two key changes to customs legislation after a Remainer backlash that plunged the party deeper into civil war.
Defence minister Guto Bebb voted against the Government, effectively quitting his frontbench role.
Mrs May had earlier bowed to Brexiteer demands to stem a threatened uprising on the customs bill.
But the string of concessions infuriated Conservative Remainers who refused to back the amendments to the legislation.
Some 14 Tory rebels voted against the Government-backed Tory Eurosceptic clause that would prevent the UK collecting tariffs on behalf of the EU unless it agreed to do the same.
I have never fought the referendum result. I am doing my job and will continue to do so.— Antoinette Sandbach (@Sandbach) July 16, 2018
An amendment that would stop the UK from joining the EU’s VAT regime saw 11 Conservative rebels.
Mrs May inched through with the support of three Labour MPs, Frank Field, Kate Hoey and Graham Stringer, on both.
In bruising Commons exchanges, Remainer Anna Soubry accused Mrs May of “caving in” to Eurosceptics.
The Tory former minister told the Commons: “Nobody voted Leave on the basis that somebody with a gold-plated pension and inherited wealth would take their job away from them.”
But as tempers flared, Ms Soubry was told she “ain’t no Margaret Thatcher” by Sir Edward Leigh when she invoked the late premier’s support for free trade.
Amid the turmoil, the Government tabled a motion calling for the current parliamentary session to be cut short.
MPs will vote on whether to start their summer recess on Thursday instead of next Tuesday.
Brilliant speech from @Anna_Soubry in the Customs Bill debate - the Chequers White Paper is a good move by the PM for a sensible Brexit & Government should have no time for ERG wrecking Amendments— Nicky Morgan MP (@NickyMorgan01) July 16, 2018
The move is likely to outrage many members of the public concerned about the divisions over Brexit and ticking clock counting down to exit day.
But an early holiday would stymie Tory MPs plotting against the increasingly politically fragile premier.
Mrs May told MPs the Brexiteer amendments she accepted did not change her Chequers blueprint for Brexit.
But Labour MP Stephen Kinnock accused the PM of “capitulating” and said the Chequers deal was now “dead in the water”.
Mrs May faces further danger on Tuesday, with pro-EU Tories tabling amendments to the Trade Bill, which returns to the Commons.
Liberal Democrat Brexit spokesman Tom Brake said: “Today we have seen the truly calamitous state of the Tory party, as once again the Prime Minister is forced to concede ground to hold together her unholy alliance of MPs.”