The Government is under pressure to reconsider leaving the European Customs Union following a large defeat in the House of Lords today. The Government was defeated by a majority of 123 votes, with 348 Lords voting to reopen the Customs Union debate.
Following the vote Keir Starmer, the Shadow Secretary of State for Leaving the European Union, said:
“The passing of this cross-party amendment is an important step forward. Theresa May must now listen to the growing chorus of voices who are urging her to drop her red line on a customs union and rethink her approach”.
Lord Patten of Barnes, the former Conservative Party Chairman, said earlier in a speech in the Lords:
“The first thing we have to do is secure our market in the European Union—50% of our trade. We then have to think about the 12% of trade with countries with which the European Union has concluded agreements already and the 8% with which it is negotiating trade agreements already. That adds up to about 70%. Of the remaining 30%, about half is with the United States, a quarter with China and Hong Kong, and the rest with everyone else”.
Lord Callanan, the Government Minister for Leaving the European Union, said in a speech:
“The nub of the issue is this. If the UK were to remain in the customs union and be bound by the EU’s common external tariff, it would mean providing preferential access to the UK market for countries that the EU agrees trade deals with, without necessarily gaining preferential access for UK exports to such countries. Alternatively, we would need the EU to negotiate with third countries on the UK’s behalf. This would leave us with less influence over our international trade policy than we have now, and would not, in our humble assertion, be in the best interests of UK businesses”.