British PM May wins key Brexit vote

Prime Minister Theresa May is greeted by Managing Director of Belleek pottery factory John Maguire- Credit Niall Carson  PA Wire

On Monday, he was among those supporting amendments to a customs bill created to toughen the Chequers deal and reduce May's scope to make concessions when she negotiates with the European Union.

May's government were also forced to abandon their bid to go on parliamentary recess five days early.

Former minister Guto Bebb, who quit his defence brief on Monday in protest at Government concessions to hard Brexit Tories, was among 12 Conservative MPs who rebelled over the customs union plan.

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The government lost another, less crucial vote on another backbench amendment calling for future participation in the European medicines regulatory network.

While Mrs May faces a session in front of the Liaison Committee, made up of senior MPs who chair Commons select committees, a debate will take place in the main chamber on the future relationship between the United Kingdom and EU.

Downing Street insisted that this would have breached Mrs May's red line, set out in last year's Lancaster House speech and enshrined in the Chequers Cabinet agreement, to take Britain out of the customs union.

The Department for International Trade said Britain was always seeking to be part of the medicines framework.

A spokeswoman for May said the amendments are consistent with the original plan. Any final deal with the European Union will also require ratification by a bitterly split parliament.

But despite the rebels' rejection of this overture, Mrs May emerged triumphant by a margin of just six votes, as the Commons rejected the key amendment by 307-301.

She now faces a potentially hard session of Prime Minister's Questions and an appearance in front of the Liaison Committee of senior MPs on Wednesday.

The narrow victory is May's third this week, underlining the difficulty she faces in passing legislation on one of the most divisive and important decisions in modern British history with only a minority government and a party at war with itself.

A strong rebellion on the Conservative benches could lead to an embarrassing defeat for a government now assailed on all sides over its plans for leaving the EU.

The Chequers plan was "the only way to enable us to get a deal with no friction at the EU/UK border, to resolve the Northern Ireland border issue and to ensure that we can strike free trade deals around the world", said the spokesman.

Her intervention is also another blow for May's plan for close ties with the European Union, which had already come under fire from Conservatives who want a clean break.

On two of those votes, her majority was cut to three.

May is proposing to negotiate the closest possible commercial links - "a common rule book" - for goods trade with the bloc, saying this is the only way to balance political and economic priorities for Brexit.

"I can't remember anything quite like this".

In addition, Liberal Democrat MP Jo Swinson, who recently had a baby and was unable to vote, accused the government of breaking a so-called "pairing" agreement.

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