British lawmakers on Wednesday rejected proposals by pro-EU politicians that were intended to lock the UK into the bloc’s customs union and single market after Brexit.
The House of Commons voted by a wide margin against a call to join the European Economic Area — which includes the EU nations and Norway — after Conservative and opposition Labour leaderships opposed it.
Lawmakers also much more narrowly rejected calls to keep the UK in a customs union with the EU.
Photo: AFP / British Parliamentary Recording Unit
The votes came after two days of bruising debate on the European Union Withdrawal Bill.
In a series of votes, the House of Commons largely reversed changes inserted by the House of Lords that would have softened the terms of Brexit.
However, it is likely only a temporary reprieve. Many lawmakers said it seemed likely that Britain would have to remain in a customs union with the EU, even though the government insists it will leave, saying that doing so would free the country to strike trade deals around the world.
It also threatens the invisible border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, an EU member, as the bill promises that the border would stay open and there would be no “physical infrastructure,” but the British government has not said how that can be achieved if the UK and the EU have different customs rules.
It was inevitable “we will have to come to a customs union agreement,” even if it was given another label, pro-EU Conservative lawmaker Heidi Allen said. “Partnership, love dance — don’t care what you call it.”
The government was forced to give ground to pro-EU lawmakers in one key area: promising that parliament would get more say over the divorce deal.
British Prime Minister Theresa May said the government would amend the bill to address legislators’ concerns, but added: “I cannot countenance parliament being able to overturn the will of the British people.”
A paper laying out the UK’s position on future relations has been delayed until next month, because the Cabinet cannot agree on a united stance.
Brexit has also complicated relations between the British government and Scotland, where a majority voted in 2016 to stay in the EU.
Scottish National Party lawmakers on Wednesday walked out of the House of Commons to protest the short amount of time given on Monday to debate Scotland-related issues — 20 minutes out of a six-hour session.
The pro-independence party accuses the British government of trying to seize powers that would be handed back from Brussels after Brexit.
‘NO EQUILIBRIUM’: Taiwan’s increased defense spending is a good step, but it needs to do more to have the ability to deter aggression from China, a senior US official said The US plans to sell as many as seven major weapons systems — including mines, cruise missiles and drones — to Taiwan, four people familiar with the discussions said. Pursuing seven sales at once is a rare departure from years of precedent in which US military sales to Taiwan were spaced out and carefully calibrated to minimize tensions with Beijing. However, US President Donald Trump’s administration has this year become more aggressive with China, and the sales would land as relations between Beijing and Washington are at their lowest point in decades over accusations of spying, lingering trade tensions, disputes about the
ON THEIR OWN: The KMT has decided not to participate as a party at this year’s forum, and if any members do go, they would not be representing the party, Alicia Wang said The Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) yesterday announced that it would not send a delegation “as a political party” to this year’s Straits Forum, after a Chinese TV program described the planned visit to the annual meeting as “suing for peace.” The 12th forum is scheduled to open in Xiamen, China, on Saturday. On Tuesday last week, the KMT announced that former legislative speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) would lead the party’s delegation to the forum, with KMT Secretary-General Lee Chien-lung (李乾龍) as deputy head. However, on Thursday last week, China Central Television’s (CCTV) Yangshipin (央視頻) program, hosted by Li Hong (李紅), included a headline
RIVERSIDE CAMP: As rescuers continued their search for a missing man, Taipower said that the floodgates at a hydro plant on the Lishi Creek opened due to a malfunction Three people have been confirmed dead and one was missing after being swept away by a flash flood while camping in Nantou County’s Renai Township (仁愛), police said yesterday. Six people from two families were camping near Lishi Creek (栗栖溪) when the riverbanks were suddenly flooded just after 4am, carrying away four of the campers — including two children — who were asleep in their tents, police said. A man who was among those swept away was able to climb ashore and call for help, police said, adding that another man had gone missing in the turmoil at the campsite.
WORKING OVERTIME? NTU professor Lee Duu-jong denied that he had held a part-time position at a Chinese university or joined China’s Thousand Talents Program A candidate for the post of National Taiwan University of Science and Technology (NTUST) president yesterday dropped out of the race following a report questioning his links to Chinese academia and government programs. Lee Duu-jong (李篤中), a professor at National Taiwan University’s (NTU) chemical engineering department, was a member of China’s Changjiang Scholars’ Program in 2006 and was on the list of its Thousand Talents Program in 2017, a report by Chinese-language Mirror Media magazine said yesterday. The article said that Lee is suspected of having held a part-time job at the Harbin Institute of Technology in China and was the recipient