Senior Tory MP warns Theresa May of 'huge majority' in Parliament for customs union deal

Posted On: 
27th February 2018

A leading Tory MP has warned Theresa May that she is heading for defeat in a Commons vote on calls for the UK to strike a customs union deal with the EU after Brexit.

Sarah Wollaston is chair of the health select committee.
PA Images

The chair of the Health Select Committee, Sarah Wollaston, said there was a "huge" majority in Parliament for such a move, and said the Prime Minister should use that to face down her Brexiteer colleagues on the Tory benches.

Ms Wollaston insisted she and other pro-European colleagues were not trying to bring down the government, but to offer Mrs May room for manoeuvre.

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It comes after 62 Tory eurosceptics signed a letter to the Prime Minister last week with their "suggestions" for leaving the EU, including leaving the single market and pursuing an independent trade policy outside the customs union. 

Ms Wollaston suggested many members of the Government shared her view that a customs arrangement of some sort would be preferable. 

"It's not about trying to force Theresa May to resign, of course I don't want to see that, but in some ways I do think it may help her," Ms Wollaston told the BBC's Newsnight.

"She will then be able to turn around to the 62 who were sort of threatening to sort of force her into a leadership contest. It will enable her to explain the reality. The simple reality is this - that there isn't a parliamentary majority for a hard Brexit and it allows her to go back to them, maybe say you know 'Love to help, I've done my best'".

Asked what the majority in Parliament would be for a customs deal if there was a free vote, she replied: "Huge. Because we know there are very many ministers and many many PPS's and other people who are currently not able to sign amendments who would very much like to see us come to "a customs arrangement" of some sort. So I think this will help her."

Jeremy Corbyn yesterday formally committed Labour to a customs union with continued tariff-free trade with the continent, while Mrs May is expected to set out her position once more with a speech this Friday.