After reprieve, May faces Brexit battle in parliament on trade

UK

LONDON (Reuters) – British Prime Minister Theresa May faces a battle over trade in parliament on Tuesday, with pro-EU lawmakers hoping to influence her plans to leave the European Union a day after she bowed to demands from Brexit campaigners.

FILE PHOTO: Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May arrives for the second day of a NATO summit in Brussels, Belgium, July 12, 2018. Tatyana Zenkovich/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo

May’s vulnerability in parliament, where she lost her Conservative Party’s majority in an ill-judged election last year, was laid bare on Monday, when her decision to accept the demands of pro-Brexit lawmakers stirred a rebellion among those who want to keep the closest possible ties in the EU.

On two of Monday’s votes her majority was cut to three, suggesting that the leader will struggle to get Brexit legislation through a deeply divided parliament, which could possibly threaten the approval of any Brexit deal with the EU.

FILE PHOTO – Britain’s Secretary of State for International Trade Liam Fox leaves Downing Street after this morning’s cabinet meeting in Westminster, London, Britain, July 10, 2018. REUTERS/Hannah McKay

May has vowed to stick to her plan to negotiate the closest possible trade ties with the EU, saying her strategy is the only one that can meet the government’s aims for Brexit, the biggest shift in Britain’s foreign and trade policy for decades.

But it has pleased very few, deepening those divisions in her Conservative Party that have so far hampered progress in talks with the EU, and triggering a bitter war of words between its Brexit-supporting and pro-EU factions.

“We can’t please everybody. We have to have a compromise position that enables the country to get an agreement with the European Union,” trade minister Liam Fox told BBC radio.

“It’s up now to the EU 27 to determine what sort of relationship they have with us.”

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Tuesday’s vote will be on the trade bill, which is focused on converting trade deals between the EU and third countries into bilateral deals with Britain. It is a technical bill and was not originally intended to define new trade policy.

Pro-EU lawmakers have tabled a change to the wording of the bill to try to force the government to pursue a customs union with the EU if ministers fail to agree an agreement which establishes “a frictionless free trade area for goods”.

Parliament will also vote on a government attempt to bring forward its summer break to Thursday from next week, which the government says is logical because there is very little parliamentary business in the remaining days.

Critics say the move is a bid by a government panicked by the various rebellions in the Conservative Party.

Reporting by Elizabeth Piper; Editing by Peter Graff

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