PM suffers embarrassing Brexit bill defeat in House of Lords

Theresa May is wary of a Brexit setback in Lords

May, who has struggled to unite her Conservative party over Brexit, has said Britain will leave the EU's single market and customs union after it quits the bloc next March so that London can forge its own free trade deals.

On eight issues - including the customs union - there's the prospect of defeating the government by 50 votes or more, according to Labour's Brexit spokeswoman in the Lords, Dianne Hayter.

The government headed by Prime Minister Theresa May will have to give parliament a statement outlining the steps taken in negotiations to negotiate "an arrangement which enables the United Kingdom to continue participating in a customs union with the European Union".

Lords voted 348 to 225 in favour of looking again at the possibility of remaining in a customs union with the EU. "Frankly it would not stop Brexit and it wouldn't require us to stay in the customs union", he told Reuters, adding he was not overly concerned by the vote.

The U.K. government suffered a significant defeat on an amendment to its EU (Withdrawal) Bill cross-party amendment on the issue of continued membership of the EU customs union.

Brexit minister Lord Callanan said the government meant to overturn the measures at a later stage.

By choosing to focus on the customs union, the peers have touched on a flashpoint in the Brexit debate, which has sowed divisions across Britain.

The Prime Minister's official spokesman said: '(Mrs May) has been very clear that the British people voted to leave the European Union and expect us to be able to sign trade deals around the world, operating our own independent trade policy.

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A cross-party committee of peers warned in January that the bill was "fundamentally flawed" as it stood as much of its content hinged on the outcome of existing negotiations over the UK's exit.

It's still not clear how the government would react to a defeat, and to what extent the amendments will force May to change her policy.

Bills must pass the House of Lords after they have been formed by elected Members of Parliament in the House of Commons.

"And our peers won't be shy about sending amendments to the Commons, giving MPs a further chance to scrutinise the detail of the Bill".

Labour's shadow Brexit secretary Keir Starmer, who watched the debate from the sidelines, welcomed the result, saying it was a "huge step forward".

"Labour has long championed the benefits of a customs union as the only viable way to protect jobs, support manufacturing and help avoid a hard border in Northern Ireland after we leave the EU".

"Come election night 2017, soon after 2am, David Davis admitted on air that "the government might have lost their mandate to exit. the customs union".

"[Prime Minister] Theresa May must now listen to the growing chorus of voices who are urging her to drop her redline on a customs union and rethink her approach", he then concluded. A final vote is expected in October or November. "We'll see by tomorrow whether they've accepted that or not". "I don't think we will do better than we are doing within the customs union".

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