James Forsyth

Tory MPs brace themselves for EU Withdrawal Bill showdown

Tory MPs brace themselves for EU Withdrawal Bill showdown
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The Chief Whip has just told Tory MPs that the EU Withdrawal Bill will be coming back to the Commons in early to mid-June. He told a meeting of the 1922 Committee that all leave was cancelled, and that there would be no slipping as the Government tried to overturn the Lords amendments. He was, I am informed, clear that the Government isn’t changing its mind on either the EEA or a customs union.

There had been speculation that the Government would try and hold the withdrawal bill back until the autumn. But I understand that this option was never really a goer because of the number of statutory instruments associated with it.

The return of the withdrawal bill, and the vote on the customs union amendment, suggests that the Government will have to have decided on its preferred customs option by then. Today’s claims by HMRC that MaxFac would cost business £17bn to £20bn pounds will, likely, embolden those who want to keep the new customs partnership model alive. They will argue that, given the parliamentary arithmetic, the real choice is between NCP and a customs union.

But given the balance of opinion in both the Brexit inner Cabinet and the parliamentary party, I suspect that it is more likely that some tweaked version of max fac will be the government’s position, at least initially.