Published On: Thu, Apr 26th, 2018

Customs union debate LIVE: Pressure on Tories as DUP threatens to BRING down May

Signatories to the non-binding motion tabled by parliamentary committee chairs include four senior Tories: Bob Neill, Sarah Wollaston, Nicky Morgan and Dominic Grieve.

A vote is not expected at the end of today’s non-binding debate and Downing Street has played down its significance, saying it was a “routine backbench business debate”.

However Theresa May will be tested as today’s motion calls on the Government to include an objective in negotiations with the EU to have “the establishment of an effective customs union between the two territories”.

And the DUP, which is propping up the Tories in the Commons, has threatened to bring down the PM if she sacrificed the Government’s position on the customs union.

Leader Nigel Dodds said his party would vote against the Government if any Brexit “red lines” were crossed.

Labour MP Yvette Cooper opened the Commons debate by saying motion was the first of the debates chosen by the Liason Committtee, adding “it is on one of the most important issues that Parliament will have to take a decision on in the next six months”.

She admitted committee was divided over whether the UK should leave customs union – supporting Mrs May’sBrexit plans – and or remain in the EU agreement.

Read all the updates live below

12.26pm: Labour MP Yvette Cooper has opened the debate

Yvette Cooper says today’s moton is the first of the debates chosen by the Liason Committtee, adding:”it is on one of the most important issues that Parliament will have to take a decision on in the next six months.”

12:10pm: The House of Commons is running behind schedule but the customs union debate is expected to start soon

Speaking before the debate Nigel Dodds, the deputy leader of the Democratic Unionist Party, said his party would vote against the Government if any of its “red lines” on Brexit were crossed.

Mr Dodds told the Conservativehome website: “If, as a result of the Brexit negotiations for instance, there was to be any suggestion that Northern Ireland would be treated differently in a way, for instance that we were part of a customs union and a single market and the rest of the UK wasn’t … for us that would be a red line, which we would vote against the Government.

“You might as well have a Corbyn government pursuing openly its anti-Unionist policies as have a Conservative Government doing it by a different means.”

Meanwhile Labour’s shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir Starmer accused the Prime Minister of delaying the showdown over the Taxation (Cross-border Trade) Bill because she fears a humiliating defeat.

House of Commons library analysis commissioned by Labour indicated the decision to rule out a new customs union with the European Union could cost the UK economy £24 billion by 2033.

Sir Keir said: “Over the past few weeks it has become abundantly clear that Theresa May is unwilling and unable to put the country’s interests first during the Brexit negotiations.

“She has wasted 12 weeks of the Brexit negotiations delaying a Commons vote on the UK negotiating a customs union with the EU for fear of a defeat.

“In light of the Government’s own impact assessments and the lack of progress on any new trade deals, any economic case for ruling out a customs union has collapsed.

“The Prime Minister is now solely focused on internal party management and masking the divisions within her government.”

But Brexit minister Suella Braverman said Labour’s support for a customs union “would leave the UK shackled to Brussels”, taking rules set by the EU and unable to strike trade deals.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has backed a customs union but only if the UK had a say in future EU trade deals.

Mrs Braverman said: “The supposed safeguards that Corbyn talks about are impossible to achieve and will get laughed out of town.”

She said Labour was “more interested in frustrating the process and playing politics than they are in delivering a successful Brexit”.

Labour Home Affairs Committee chairwoman Yvette Cooper and Treasury select committee chairwoman Ms Morgan said in a joint statement: “We both believe the case for a customs union is overwhelming – for the sake of British manufacturing, international trade, smooth borders and Northern Ireland peace.”

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