Theresa May sets out customs union and second referendum deal

The prime minister has offered the House of Commons votes on a customs deal with the European Union and a second referendum on Brexit in the course of laying out a ‘new deal’ ahead of a fresh vote on her withdrawal treaty – now a second reading of the Withdrawal Bill which is expected to be held in the first week of June.

It follows three humiliating defeats in the Commons on prior meaningful votes. She now warns MPs that a vote against second reading would be ‘a vote to stop Brexit’.

Standing in front of the slogan ‘seeking common ground in Parliament’, she vowed that her deal and the votes would be ‘one last chance’ for her Brexit plans.

Following on from weeks of cross-party talks with Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party, May’s scheme  promises new guarantees on workers’ rights and environmental standards.

She went further still, and promised MPs a vote to ‘break the impasse’ on various competing customs arrangements and a vote – subsequent to passing the Withdrawal Bill – on whether or not the legislation should be subject to a so-called confirmatory referendum.

Cabinet sources claim Theresa May was prepared to sign up wholesale to a customs union with the European Union and a second referendum, but was forced to relent after Andrea Leadsom, Chris Grayling, and Geoffrey Cox told her it was utterly unacceptable.

Many Leave voters, no doubt, will find the eventual deal utterly unacceptable as well…

The new deal remains unlikely to pass with several Tory MPs who had previously switched to supporting the deal now reverting to opposition. Yesterday the former Brexit secretary David Davis said ‘it will create the platform for people to try and get into the law possibilities of restricting us staying in a Customs Union, the possibility of requiring a second referendum’.

Expect the results of the May 23 European elections to further cement opposition among Tory Eurosceptics.