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Theresa May set to avoid Brexit customs defeat as Tory rebels agree deal with No10

3 min read

Theresa May is set to avoid a humiliating defeat on a key Brexit policy after Tory rebels agreed to a compromise deal with Number 10.

They are prepared to back a new amendment to the EU Withdrawal Bill pledging the Government to reach a "customs arrangement" with Brussels.

That would knock out a House of Lords amendment which called on ministers to enter in a new "customs union" with the EU.

Former Education Secretary Nicky Morgan, a leading Remain supporter who was one of those ready to rebel, tonight confirmed she would support the new wording, which is being drawn up by Oliver Letwin.

However, the Government could still be defeated in a vote on Tuesday on a separate Lords amendment which aims to put Parliament in charge of the Brexit process if MPs vote to reject the final deal the Prime Minister reaches with Brussels.

At a meeting of the Tory backbench 1922 committee tonight, Mrs May called for party unity and said any government defeats would be cheered by the EU.

She said: "We must think about the message Parliament will send to the European Union this week.

"I am trying to negotiate the best deal for Britain. I am confident I can get a deal that allows us to strike our own trade deals while having a border with the EU which is as frictionless as possible.

"But if the Lords amendments are allowed to stand, that negotiating position will be undermined."

She added: "The message we send to the country through our votes this week is important.

"We must be clear that we are united as a party in our determination to deliver on the decision made by the British people."

Speaking outside the meeting, solicitor general Robert Buckland said: "There's ongoing work happening and it's emblematic of a real sense of common purpose in the party that we have to hang together or we hang separately. It's more than just about party unity, this is about the interests of the country."

And Brexit minister Steve Baker all-but confirmed that a deal had been done to head off a rebellion on a customs union.

He said: "The Goverment will look very carefully at what they've tabled and we will take a decision on whether or not we will support it in the usual way. Our policy is to leave the customs union so we can have our own independent trade policy, but it would be appropriate that we have an arrangement in place with the European Union."

But one Conservative MP told PoliticsHome he had not been impressed by the Prime Minister.

The MP said: "I was expecting something more substantive. It was all motherhood and apple pie stuff about Brexit meaning Brexit. It's government by committee - like a parish council. I want to be led."

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