UK MPs to vote on single market after government defeat in House of Lords.

London

UK MPs are set to be given a vote on whether Britain should remain in the European Economic Area, following a series of government defeats on the Withdrawal Bill in the House of Lords on Tuesday night. It means the Brexit strategy of both Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn have been dealt serious blows.

The rebel Labour amendment in the Lords opened the prospect of a Commons vote on the EEA – a less stringent version of the single market. A group of 83 Labour peers defied their party whip and voted for a cross-party amendment. Chuka Umunna, the Labour MP who co-chairs a pro-European Commons committee with Conservative Anna Soubry, said “The time for constructive ambiguity is over: our members and our voters will be delighted with this clear signal that we will not go along with this Tory Brexit.”

Peers also voted to remove the EU exit date of 29 March 2019 from the Bill, warning it could become a “straitjacket” for negotiators.

The votes followed Boris Johnson’s extraordinary attack on Theresa May’s preferred option for a post-Brexit EU customs partnership, calling the proposed system crazy and saying it would not give Britain control of trade policy. In the House of Lords debate, the former Tory MP Patrick Cormack asked: “What sort of example are we being given by a cabinet that is rent asunder by the foreign secretary, the second most important cabinet minister, rubbishing the prime minister in the columns of the Daily Mail?”

There are reports that the government is expected to seek to reverse a number of the Lords’ amendments when the Bill returns to the House of Commons later this month.