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Pro-EU MPs want to force Boris Johnson to negotiate a customs union with the EU

Ben Gartside
Reporter
Anti-Brexit protester Steve Bray walks next to a pro-Brexit protester during a demonstration at Westminster, in London. Photo: Reuters

Pro-European Union MPs are considering supporting a customs union amendment to the government’s Brexit bill in order to dilute it ahead of a second referendum.

If passed, the amendment —one of many MPs are trying to bolt onto the government’s bill— would force the prime minister to negotiate a customs union with the 27-nation bloc.

During a series of indicative votes this summer, a similar customs union amendment to Theresa May’s Brexit bill almost gained support of the house, falling by three votes.

One MP who has voted against a custom union previously will vote for it this time around, sources close to her say.

Speaking to Yahoo Finance UK, a source close to Labour MP Anna McMorrin said: “Anna will happily support potential customs union amendment voting for a customs union at this point as it is the most sensible thing to do. Last time round was a different scenario. But the main emphasis is getting the deal back to the people for a final say.”

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Other pro-EU Labour MPs who didn’t support the customs union during indicative votes told Yahoo Finance UK they were yet to decide how they would vote, as their vote would be dependent on the specific wording of the amendment.

A Liberal Democrat spokesperson underlined that their “priority is towards a people’s vote”, but said they had yet to decide on how they would whip if an amendment came before the house.

A representative from the Scottish National Party said they would be “considering the wording of anything put down”, and had not yet reached a decision on how to vote on any legislation.

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Open Europe’s Dominic Walsh told Yahoo Finance UK that, whilst much has been made about the narrow loss in the summer, indicative votes weren’t “necessarily a good yardstick” for this coming vote: “The numbers on a customs union will also only have a chance if remain MPs can be persuaded to back it, perhaps with a view to making it the leave option in a second referendum.”

‘Priority is towards a people’s vote’

A pro-Brexit activist with a placard at Parliament Square. Photo via Getty Images

Other pro-EU Labour MPs who didn’t support the customs union amendment previously told Yahoo Finance UK they were yet to decide how they would vote, as their vote would be dependent on the specific wording of the amendment.

A Liberal Democrat spokesperson underlined that their “priority is towards a people’s vote” but said they had yet to decide on how they would force their MPs to vote if an amendment came before the house.

A Labour Shadow Minister told Yahoo Finance that he believed the votes of Remain MPs were dependent on how amendments were presented ahead of the vote.

They said: “It’s party policy to want a customs union. Now how that is materialised is a different matter but I think there’s strong support for it on labour benches to protect manufacturing...It probably isn't an ‘either/or’ question [between a customs union and a referendum]”.

Ahead of today, multiple Conservative MPs told BuzzFeed News they were set to oppose a customs union amendment despite supporting it during indicative votes.