- Theresa May is facing more intense pressure over her proposals for leaving EU
- Brexiteers and Remainers slam plan as unworkable and betraying referendum
- PM capitulates to Tory Eurosceptics by accepting amendments to Customs Bill
- Fears Boris Johnson could strike at PM after breaking silence over resignation
The PM insisted she was pressing ahead with the controversial proposals despite accepting amendments to the crucial Customs Bill that appear to damage them fatally.
One critical change secured by Eurosceptics insists that the UK can only collect taxes on behalf of a foreign state if they agree to collect duties for Britain.
The climbdown will increase the sense that the walls are closing on Mrs May and the chances of a ‘no deal’ Brexit are rising – as she now has even less room to manoeuvre in negotiations with the EU.
Both Eurosceptics and Remainers have been dismissing her Chequers plan as ‘dead’ as she faces massive pressure from each Tory faction to change tack.
But asked in the Commons why she was ‘dancing to the tune’ of Brexiteers, Mrs May replied: ‘I would not have gone through all the work I did to ensure that we reached that agreement only to see it changed in some way through these Bills.
‘They do not change that Chequers agreement.’
Earlier, the premier was hit with another government resignation over Brexit, with Scott Mann quitting as a ministerial aide.
The North Cornwall MP said he was ‘not prepared to compromise’ the wishes of his constituents and ‘deliver a watered down Brexit’.
The PM insisted she was pressing ahead with the controversial proposals despite accepting amendments to the crucial Customs Bill that appear to damage them fatally
As the Brexit row swirled, Theresa May gave a statement to MPs this afternoon on last week’s NATO summit and her talks with Donald Trump at Chequers
North Cornwall MP Scott Mann said he was ‘not prepared to compromise’ the wishes of his constituents to ‘deliver a watered down Brexit’
In a speech at the Farnborough Airshow this morning, Mrs May again urged MPs not to risk either torpedoing Brexit altogether or seriously damaging business with a hard exit.
But Tory Eurosceptics had upped their threats to embarrass the premier in a series of crucial Commons votes due late tonight.
Which amendments have the Government accepted?
Downing Street tonight said the Government would accept four rebel amendments from Brexiteers:
1. Make it illegal for Northern Ireland to operate under a separate customs regime to mainland Britain. This effectively outlaws leaving Northern Ireland in the single market.
2. Any customs union between Brexit Britain and the EU must have its own law. Requiring primary legislation makes it much harder for ministers to force through a soft Brexit as part of a wider package.
3. Banning the UK from re-joining the EU’s VAT regime after Brexit.
4. Making it illegal for Britain to collect tariffs and duties on behalf of the EU without Brussels doing the same. This appear to many to be in defiance of the White Paper, which conceded Britain should collect tariffs in return for a close economic tie to Europe.
There were rumours they could be joined in the division lobbies by Boris Johnson – who has made his first intervention since dramatically quitting last week by jibing at the government’s lack of ‘dynamism’ about Brexit.
A No10 spokesman tried to put a brave face on the capitulation this afternoon, claiming that all four amendments were ‘consistent with the approach we have set out’.
Asked if the climbdown meant the Chequers plan was dead, he added: ‘We do not agree with that,’ he said.
‘We looked at amendments that have been put forward. We believe them to be consistent with the White Paper and we are accepting them as a result.’
Three of the amendments were regarded as broadly in line with existing government policy.
One would make it unlawful for Northern Ireland to diverge from the rest of the UK for customs; another would require primary legislation for any future customs union with the EU; and the third would stop the UK joining the EU’s VAT regime.
But significantly, one change would target a core part of Mrs May’s Chequers plan by insisting that the UK can only collect taxes on behalf of a foreign state if there is ‘reciprocation’ – and it agrees to collect taxes on behalf of Britain.
Although not immediately fatal to the PM’s proposals, the condition places yet another a major roadblock in the path of the talks with the EU.
Mrs May, pictured at the Farnborough Airshow today, has urged MPs to heed the views of business on Brexit
Mrs May met Airbus chief executive Tom Enders, who took her on board an A220-300 jet which has its wings manufactured in Belfast