I am pleased that the Government’s concessions on refugee rights, environmental standards were approved today in the House of Commons. This is a result of a significant amount of work behind the scenes.
The House of Commons also approved the compromise amendment on customs. As I said yesterday, many have overstated what the Lords amendment on a Customs Union would have achieved. It would not have forced the Government to seek to join a Customs Union with the EU. It only required the Government to write a report on steps to negotiate a Customs Union.
I have said on numerous occasions that it is not important what the customs solution is called, all that matters is that it protects frictionless trade and prevents a border in Northern Ireland – again this is why the Northern Ireland amendment yesterday was so important.
I remain a signatory to the amendment on a Customs Union to the Trade Bill. This amendment would actually force the Government to seek to negotiate a Customs Union, unlike the Lords amendment.
Finally, regarding the EEA Amendment, unfortunately, the Commons does not have the numbers to support continuing membership of the EEA at present. I did not vote against the amendment and I have tabled an amendment on this to the Trade Bill (below) which will debated next month.
The EU (Withdrawal) Bill was primarily a process Bill and in its original form had no discussion about customs or trade to any substantive effect. That is why colleagues and I have forced the Government to agree to bring back both the Customs Bill and Trade Bill for the period after the June European Council.
In my view this will be a key moment in British economic and political history. This will be when the substantive amendments on the EEA and a Customs Union will be debated.