‘We need a leader not a puppet’ - Remainer anger as May bows to pressure from Brexiters

PUBLISHED: 17:34 16 July 2018 | UPDATED: 18:28 16 July 2018

Theresa May gives a statement in the House of Commons. Photograph: PA Images.

Theresa May gives a statement in the House of Commons. Photograph: PA Images.

Theresa May has bowed to pressure from Tory Brexiteers after accepting crucial changes to her Chequers Brexit plan.

Eurosceptics tabled amendments to the Government’s Customs Bill aimed at imposing strict conditions on the Prime Minister after she produced a plan at Chequers that would keep the UK closely tied to Brussels’ rules on goods and food.

A Brexiteer source said the move confirmed that “Chequers is dead on arrival” after the Government accepted all four reforms put forward by Eurosceptics such as Jacob Rees-Mogg, Sir Bernard Jenkin, Priti Patel and Iain Duncan Smith.

Tory Remainer Anna Soubry suggested Rees-Mogg was now “running Britain”.

Labour MP Stephen Kinnock accused the PM of “dancing to the tune” of the European Research Group (ERG) of Tory Brexiteers and claimed that by “capitulating”, the Chequers deal is now “dead in the water”.

But May insisted the amendments do not change the blueprint agreed at her country residence.

She told MPs: “He is absolutely wrong in his reference to the agreement that was reached at Chequers, I would not have gone through all the work that I did to ensure that we reached that agreement only to see it changed in some way through these Bills.

“They do not change that Chequers agreement and the minister from the despatch box later today will be making that clear.”

The PM faced a potential revolt on the Taxation (Cross-border Trade) Bill, often referred to as the Customs Bill.

Downing Street insisted the amendments it had accepted were still consistent with the plans in the Chequers agreement but the move may limit the Government’s room for manoeuvre in exit talks with the EU.

“We will be accepting these four amendments because we feel they are consistent with the white paper we published last week,” a source said.

Conservative former Cabinet minister Ken Clarke told MPs that the Government’s adoption of ERG amendments was “directly inconsistent with the white paper of a week ago”.

Peter Bone, a signatory to the amendments, said the whole situation was a “shambles” and called for the Chequers plan to be taken off the table.

He said: “I can’t possibly dress it up in any other words than it’s an absolute shambles and a self-inflicted shambles by Number 10.”

One of the rebel amendments demands that the UK should scrap an offer to collect taxes and duties on behalf of the EU unless the remaining 27 member states pledge to do the same for Britain.

A second forces the Government to commit itself in law not to allow a customs border down the Irish Sea.

The others require the UK to have a separate VAT regime from the EU and force the Prime Minister to table primary legislation if she wishes to keep Britain in the customs union.

Labour MP David Lammy tweeted: “The hard right ERG is back to pulling the strings of Number 10. At this time of national crisis, we need a leader, not a puppet, in charge.”

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