LONDON: British Prime Minister Theresa May narrowly survived another crunch Brexit vote in parliament Tuesday, as she struggles to unify her divided party around her strategy for leaving the European Union.
The Conservative government defeated an amendment introduced by its own backbench MPs to a future trade policy bill which would have kept Britain in a customs union with the EU if it fails to agree a free trade deal.
If the amendment had passed it would have thrown May’s Brexit strategy into disarray and increased pressure on the already beleaguered leader.
Government whips overcame the rebellion by a dozen Tory lawmakers — reportedly issuing last-ditch threats it would prompt a no-confidence vote in the prime minister — and scraped through by six votes, winning by 307 to 301.
It was bolstered by the support of four pro-Brexit opposition Labour Party MPs.
Ministers argued the amendment would put “massive restrictions” on its ability to forge “an independent trade policy” after Britain leaves the European Union next March.
International Trade Secretary Liam Fox told parliament the government’s future trade bill was “an important bill providing continuity and stability.”
“It will be the confident first step that the UK takes in establishing itself as an independent trading nation,” he added.
The government lost another, less crucial vote on another backbench amendment calling for future participation in the European medicines regulatory network.
The entire trade bill passed by 31 votes and now moves to the House of Lords for further scrutiny before returning to the Commons for a final vote.