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Government to announce climbdown as Brexit bill enters House of Lords

Government to announce climbdown as Brexit bill enters House of Lords

It is the first defeat for the government's key Brexit bill.

"If in the end we do leave, it should be in way that limits the damage to the country's well-being ... and that's why I believe it makes sense for the government to be asked to explore customs unions", said Lord John Kerr, a supporter of staying in the EU at the 2016 referendum.

Peers in British Parliament's upper chamber voted by 348 to 225 in favor of a call requiring government ministers to report on steps to negotiate a continued customs union with the European Union.

The DexEU spokesman stressed that even if the amendment were accepted, it would not keep the United Kingdom in a customs union, which is not government policy.

Shadow Lords leader Baroness Smith of Basildon said: "As we begin the Report stage, Theresa May and her ministers still have an opportunity to bring forward sensible changes in response to concerns raised previously in the Lords".

"A failure to do so however, will amount to kicking the can down what could be a very rocky road", she said in a statement.

Britain's House of Lords inflicted an embarrassing defeat on Theresa May's government on Wednesday, challenging her refusal to remain in a customs union with the European Union after Brexit.

It has now emerged that ministers will announce they are accepting an amendment in the name of crossbench peer Lord Patel which will give greater certainty that clinical trials will not be affected by Britain leaving the EU. "We are leaving the Customs Union and will establish a new and ambitious customs arrangement with the EU while forging new trade relationships with our partners around the world".

If the government is defeated, the bill will return to the House of Commons, where the prime minister could try to get support for a reversal of the amendment.

Debate over remaining in a customs union with the European Union has become one of the main flashpoints in the Brexit debate, which has sowed divisions across Britain. May's trade minister, Liam Fox, and others see such a deal as anathema if it prevents London negotiating its own trade deals.

"In doing that I think I will be repeating what I would have been able to say with the full support of my party for most of the time I've been a member of it".

Starmer said: "Labour has long championed the benefits of a customs union as the only viable way to protect jobs, support manufacturing and help avoid a hard border in Northern Ireland after we leave the EU".

Labour's Baroness Hayter, who joined former Tory Cabinet minister Lord Patten and Lord Kerr in tabling the amendment, had pointed out in the debate that Brexit Secretary David Davis had made Customs Union membership a key element of the general election past year.

It's still not clear how the government would react to a defeat, and to what extent the amendments will force May to change her policy.

In effect, the government could state that it had not made such an effort because it would run contrary to its planned post-Brexit trade policy, the person said.

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