Pro-EU Lawmakers Push Amendment to Stay in Customs Union


A group of pro-European Union lawmakers have tabled an amendment in an attempt to force the government to keep the U.K. in the customs union after Brexit, a move that will delight business but add to divisions within Prime Minister Theresa May’s Conservative Party.

Former Chancellor of the Exchequer Ken Clarke and former Business Minister Anna Soubry are proposing an amendment to the government’s Taxation (Cross-Border Trade) Bill seeking to add a clause stating: “It shall be a negotiating objective of Her Majesty’s Government in negotiations on the matters specified in subsection (2) to maintain the United Kingdom’s participation in the EU Customs Union.” They are backed by Labour lawmakers including Chuka Umunna and Chris Leslie.

Ken Clarke and Anna Soubry

Photographer: Simon Dawson/Bloomberg/Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

The Cabinet has yet to decide what kind of trading relationship it wants with the EU after the split and Brexit-backing Trade Secretary Liam Fox said in an interview on Friday that staying in any customs union with the bloc would be unacceptable.

Membership of the customs union goes to the heart of the Brexit debate as it sets those arguing for continuity and business interests against those who put sovereignty and the narrative of an independent free-trading nation first. The Confederation of British Industry has called for the U.K. to remain in the customs union and the opposition Labour Party has ambiguously backed a similar arrangement.

A Majority?

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