Rebels stun government but May clings on

The government scored a narrow victory over the Tory backbench rebels

The government scored a narrow victory over the Tory backbench rebels PHOTO: PA - Credit: PA Wire/PA Images

Tory rebels defeated the government on a key element of the Trade Bill – but Theresa May sneaked over the line on the customs union vote.

There were frantic scenes in parliament as Tory Whips threatened the rebels in a bid to get them to vote down the amendments.

But MPs voted in favour of ensuring participation in the European medicines regulatory network remains a negotiating objective. But perhaps more significantly the government defeated the rebels by just six votes.

The amendment had demanded that in a no-deal scenario Britain would remain in the current customs union arrangement beyond Brexit day.

The government's defeat on medicines regulation was secured by a substantial rebellion by pro-EU Tories.

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Their amendment requires the government to make it a negotiating objective in talks with the EU to secure continued UK participation in the EU medicines regulatory network partnership involving the European Medicines Agency.

The customs union vote, designed to ensure a UK negotiating objective of a customs union with the EU if there was no deal on a free trade area for goods between the two parties, was defeated by 307 votes to 301.

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There were cheers from MPs on the government benches after it was defeated, as Theresa May's administration swerved a second defeat on the Trade Bill.

The Tory rebels in the customs union vote were: Heidi Allen, Guto Bebb, Ken Clarke, Jonathan Djanogly, Dominic Grieve, Stephen Hammond, Philip Lee, Nicky Morgan, Bob Neill, Antoinette Sandbach, Anna Soubry and Sarah Wollaston.

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