Last night four amendments put forward by Jacob Rees-Mogg’s European Research Group passed, steering Mrs May’s soft Brexit blueprint in a harder direction.
But today, pro-EU Tories had the chance to take their revenge with the Brexit Trade Bill.
Tory MPs Stephen Hammond and Nicky Morgan put forward a new amendment to the current bill which would force the UK to seek customs union membership if negotiators are unable to strike a free trade deal with Brussels by January 21, 2019.
But despite signs that there could be enough support, MPs voted against it by 307 to 301.
However the Commons did vote in favour of a change to the bill which would compel ministers to “take all necessary steps” to strike a deal which will see the UK remain part of Europe’s medicines framework.
Last night Brexiteers narrowly defeated Tory rebels by just three votes on two key amendments.
The first goes back on Theresa May’s white paper suggestion to collect tariffs on behalf of the EU. The amendment means this will only happen if the EU agrees to reciprocate – resulting in 14 Tories rebelling.
The second amendment, which will ensure the UK stays out of the EU’s VAT regime, narrowly passed by three votes after 11 Tory MPs voted against the Government.
The entire bill was approved by the Commons by 318 to 285.
As a result of last night’s battle, Defence Minister Guto Bebb resigned after voting against the Government.
Voting on the Trade Bill has run throughout this afternoon, and the customs union vote is expected to take place this evening at around 6pm.
Here are all of the updates from today’s Express.co.uk Brexit Live blog:
Wednesday July 18
1:39am update: Chief Whip and MP apologise for proxy vote ‘error’
Chief Whip Julian Smith apologised and said Mr Lewis has been “asked to vote in error”.
Mr Lewis said it was an “honest mistake” made by the whips in “fast-moving circumstances”.
But Ms Swinson said it was “neither honest, nor a mistake” and the Government’s response was “not credible”.
0:06am update : Theresa May threatened rebels with General Election if they voted against her
The Prime Minister threatened Conservative Remainer rebels with a General Election this summer if they did not back her customs plans.
Remain MPs were warned by whips minutes before a crucial vote last night which would have kept the UK shackled to the customs union.
Tuesday July 17
11:07pm update: Tories accused of ‘cheating’ in tonight’s Brexit votes
The Conservative Party have been accused of “cheating” to pass tonight’s Brexit trade motion.
Lib Dem MP Jo Swinson couldn’t make it to today’s votes having recently had a baby, so was placed with Tory proxy Brandon Lewis, who was supposed to not vote, to cancel out her absence. This proxy system is well practiced in Parliament.
However, Mr Lewis voted on the trade Bill which was eventually blocked by 307 – 301.
Swinson has accused the Conservatives of “cheating”.
Caitlin Doherty takes over reporting from Harvey Gavin
9.20pm update: Brexit Trade Bill roundup
Today has been a hectic day in the Commons which saw the Government suffer its second Brexit defeat at the hands of MPs, but narrowly avoid a second major setback to its Trade Bill.
MPs voted in 305 to 301 in favour of ‘new clause 17’ – championed by Tory MP Phillip Lee – which will compel ministers to seek continued participation in the European medicines regulatory network.
However the crunch vote on ‘new clause 18’, relating to a continued UK/EU customs union after Brexit, was defeated by 307 to 301.
If approved, it would have forced negotiators to begin exploring a UK/EU customs union arrangement if no free trade deal between the two sides is reached by January next year.
The Trade Bill will now be sent to the House of Lords, which is likely to inflict further defeats on the Government.
Any changes made by peers will then need to be considered again by MPs, which could set the stage for further problems for Mrs May.
The Government narrowly avoided defeat by 307 to 301 on the customs union amendment
8.30pm update: British drug industry praises Trade Bill amendment
Following the earlier EMA vote, which saw the Government defeated by 305 to 301, Mike Thompson, chief executive of the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry, and Steve Bates, chief executive of the BioIndustry Association, praised the decision.
They said: “Today, Parliament has sent a clear message that patients and public health should be a top priority for the Government in these negotiations.
“Every month, 37 million packs of medicine arrive in the UK from the EU and 45 million move the other way.
“Therefore, it is essential that the UK continues to participate in the EMA after Brexit, as set out in the Brexit White Paper and in the Prime Minister’s Mansion House speech.”
6.40pm update: Government narrowly avoids second defeat on customs union vote
Theresa May has managed to stave off defeat at the hands of Tory rebels supported by MPs from the opposition benches over an amendment to the Brexit Trade Bill.
An amendment tabled by pro-EU MPs, which would have compelled ministers to begin negotiating a continued customs union membership with Brussels, was defeated by 307 votes to 301.
6.15pm update: Government DEFEATED as MPs vote for continued ties with EU’s drug watchdog
MPs have voted by a narrow majority to keep the UK part of the EU’s drug framework after Brexit.
New Clause 17, tabled by former justice minister Phillip Lee, compels the Government to “take all necessary steps” to strike a trade deal which would see the UK stay a member of the European Medicines Agency (EMA).
MPs voted 305 to 301 in favour of the amendment.
The EMA, currently based in London, will relocate to Amsterdam after Brexit and is charged with assessing the effectiveness of new medicines before EU sale.
It also monitors the safety of products already on the market.
Before the vote, pro-EU MP Ken Clarke had described the Government’s position, which was to leave the agency, as “completely incomprehensible”.
MPs voted to keep the UK in the EU’s medicines framework after Brexit
6.10pm update: What is the customs union clause and what are its implications?
MPs are preparing to vote on ‘New Clause 18’ to the Government’s Brexit Trade Bill which, if passed, could force ministers to negotiate a customs union deal with Brussels instead of continuing to push for a clean break.
Put forward by pro-EU Tories including Anna Soubry and Ken Clarke, the clause would give Government until January 21, 2019, to reach a free trade deal with the EU.
If no agreement is reached by the January 21 deadline, ministers would then be forced to begin talks for a UK/EU customs union instead.
5.15pm update: Customs union vote – rebels claim they have support to defeat Government
MPs are preparing to vote on an amendment which would see the UK remain in a customs union with the European Union if negotiators are unable to reach a deal by January 21, 2019.
Labour has pledged to back the motion, and a group of pro-EU Tory MPs have also threatened to vote against the Government.
If MPs vote against the Government, it could throw Mrs May’s hard-fought Chequers plan into disarray.
The vote is likely to be extremely tight and is expected to take place at around 6.30pm this evening.
4pm update: SNP amendment defeated by huge majority
SNP MPs in the Commons had tabled an amendment to the Brexit Trade Bill which would have required the approval of the UK’s devolved administrations before ministers could start negotiating free trade deals.
MPs voted by 316 to just 37 against including the amendment – a huge majority of 279.
3.30pm update: Caroline Lucas’ Trade Bill amendment defeated
The Commons debate on the Brexit Trade Bill is underway, and MPs have already rubber-stamped a series of Government amendments to the legislation.
But an amendment tabled by Green party co-leader Caroline Lucas, which aimed to increase parliamentary scrutiny on future trade deals and compel ministers to publish sustainability impacts of new agreements, was forced to a vote.
MPs rejected the addition clause by 314 to 284 – a majority of 30.
The debate continues.
3pm update: Tory chief whip means business
Tory chief whip Julian Smith is looking like he means business. Sky News reports he has his sleeves rolled up and is working his way around MPs.
The debate, meanwhile, still has not started.
2:05pm update: Less than 15 minutes until the Trade Bill debate
Mrs May is moments away from another battle over trade in the Commons. The Trade Bill is technical and was not originally intended to define a new trade policy.
One amendment will try to force the government to pursue a customs union with the EU if the ministers fail to reach an agreement which establishes “a frictionless free trade area for goods”.
MPs will also vote on whether to start their summer recess on Thursday instead of next Tuesday, which has prompted critics to speculate it is to keep a Tory rebellion from reaching its boiling point.
Theresa May faced another showdown in the Commons today
2:10pm update: Government could pull out of early summer motion
Tory former minister Sir Christopher Chope said there is a “strong rumour” that the Government will not move the motion on allowing the Commons to break for the summer early given opposition to it from across the House.
Raising a point of order in the Commons, he urged the Government to indicate now whether or not it will push the motion.
Tory former minister Sir Nicholas Soames described the motion as “idiotic” after earlier raising a point of order.
1:49pm update: Calls for a public inquiry into the Brexit Referendum
Labour MP for Bristol North West tweeted: “BREAKING: I’m writing to colleagues in Parliament today, to seek their support in calling for a public inquiry into the Brexit referendum.
“If illegality can take place in our democracy, we must bring forward reforms. Please write to your MP to ask for their support!”
1:21pm update: Sir Vince Cable breaks his silence
The Lib Dem leader tweeted a statement from Chief Whip Alistair Carmichael to explain why he was missing at last night’s crucial vote.
It reads: “I was not expecting a close vote – up until 8pm, Labour were planning to abstain which would have meant the vote would be lost by hundreds. In fact several Labour MPs voted with the government – which is why they won. By the time it became apparent that the vote was going to be close – it was too late to get two of our MPs, Vince and Tim, back in time to vote.
“I’m taking responsibility and redoubling my efforts to stop Brexit.
“Today is a new day. We will be debating the remaining stages of the Trade Bill – and we are going to hold the government’s feet to the fire.
MP Darren Jones’ formal letter
12:53pm update: Another Tory rebellion is brewing
MPs are due to rise for the summer recess on July 24 but a motion tabled on Monday night would see the Commons rise on Thursday, with a vote pencilled in for Tuesday evening.
However, Labour is understood to have instructed its MPs to vote against the move and several pro-European Tories have already indicated they will oppose any attempt to cut short the term with so much work to do on Brexit.
Nicholas Soames and Nick Boles were among Conservative MPs who also indicated on social media that they would oppose the move to finish early.
Mrs May was trying to count her votes before today’s showdown
12:46pm Urgent Question on Electoral Commission on investigation and ‘Vote Leave’ fine
Labour MP Chuka Umunna called for the Urgent Question and has called for a full parliamentary inquiry. He called into question the validity of the referendum.
Cabinet Parliamentary Secretary Chloe Smith MP responded saying that report is an independent investigation.
She said: “The fact that the rules are broken means that the system is in fact working and we have regulator that is able to conduct an independent investigation is a mark of our democracy.”
Asked whether Theresa May still believed that the 2016 referendum was free and fair, the Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “The PM is absolutely clear that this was the largest democratic exercise in our country.
“The public delivered a clear verdict and that is what we are going to be implementing.”
Asked whether Mrs May continued to have confidence in former Vote Leave staffers Stephen Parkinson and Cleo Watson who moved to Downing Street following the referendum, the spokesman said: “Yes.”
Tory MP Sarah Wollaston called for another referendum
12:25pm update: Sinn Fein’s rivals hit out at its Wesmisnter abstentionist policy
The two biggest parties in the Irish Republic, Fine Gael and Fianna Fail, and the SDLP in Northern Ireland blame Sinn Fein’s Westminster abstentionist policy for the outcome of last night’s Customs vote.
They claim amendments secured by Brexiteers undermine agreements between the UK and EU aimed at avoiding a hard border in Ireland post-Brexit.
Sinn Fein has seven MPs at Westminster. None of them take their seats due to the party’s century-old policy of abstentionism.
In Northern Ireland, 56% of the electorate voted to Remain. However, in Westminster 10 of the 11 MPs from the region who take their seats are Democratic Unionist Brexiteers.
Labour shadow chancellor John McDonnell tweeted his intentions
12:20pm update: Brexiteers are urging the public to embrace the possibility of a no-deal Brexit
Leave supporters have rallied behind new Brexit Secretary Dominc Raab who has made planning a ‘no deal’ scenario his sole focus.
Former Cabinet minister Priti Patel said: “We should be free to forge new trade deals around the world and leave the protectionism of the EU. This is a positive thing we should be celebrating.”
Former Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith added: ”If we don’t have a trade deal with the EU then we simply trade on World Trade Organisation terms, which is how most countries trade with each other.
“It wouldn’t be bedlam. All this talk about crashing out with no deal – we’re not crashing, we’re moving to WTO rules, which is how all EU-US trade is governed at the moment.”
The Department for Exiting the European Union’s new focus is now on no deal planning as Mr Raab’s first major step in redefining – and rebooting – his office after Mr Davis threw in the towel.
12:14 update: Remainers demand Labour MP Kate Hoey is AXED for backing Brexit
Labour MP Kate Hoey has been faced by demands to step down after being one of three Labour MPs to vote with the Government on a crucial amendment last night.
The Pro-Brexit MP was photographed speaking alongside Labour MP Frank Field to the European Research Group member and recently resigned Brexit minister Steve Baker in the Commons.
Her constituency’s official Twitter account @VauxhallLabour retweeted the photo with six sad face Emojis.
The MP for Vauxhall is one of three Labour MP’s to vote with their Tory opponents on an amendment that only passed by three votes. Ms Hoey, Frank Field and Graham Stringer voted on an amendment that will ensure the UK is out of the EU’s VAT regime.
It is unclear if the Labour MPs will back the Tory rebels in tonight’s vote on an amendment to the Trade Bill.
Tory MPs Stephen Hammond and Nicky Morgan put forward a new amendment to the current Trade Bill that would force the Government to stay in the customs union if Brussels cannot be persuaded to allow Britain a free trade area by January 2019.
Express.co.uk has contacted Vauxhall Labour and the national Labour Party offices for comment.
Labour’s voting intentions were revealed earlier today
11:52am update: European Commission has seen the Brexit white paper
A European Commission spokesman said of the white paper: “We have seen it.
“We are now analysing, we’re discussing it with our member states and the European Parliament.”
Asked to comment on the Commons votes, the spokesman made reference to the EU’s Berlaymont building HQ, stating: “On Westminster politics, I will certainly resist the temptation to go into Westminster politics.
“We have enough Berlaymont politics that keeps us busy here.”
Kate Hoey faced criticism this morning
11:49am update: Urgent question on the Electorla Commission investigation into Vote Leave
It will take place at 1230om. It was granted to Labour MP Chuka Umunna by the House Speaker John Bercow.
The Brexit campaign group Vote Leave has been fined has been referred to police for breaking electoral law, in findings published by the Electoral Commission this morning.
The Electoral Commission concluded the organisation “returned an incomplete and inaccurate spending report” after launching its investigation.
The independent body concluded that Vote Leave’s referendum spending was £7,449,079.34, exceeding its statutory spending limit of £7 million.
In total the levels of fines are £61,000 for Vote Leave, £20,000 for Mr Grimes and £250 for Veterans for Britain.
New Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab left Downing Street ahead of a busy day in the Commons
11:26am update: Today’s House of Commons schedule
House of Commons
1130 Business, energy and industrial strategy questions
1230 An urgent question on the Electoral Commission investigation into Vote Leave
1315 A statement from Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson on Combat Air Strategy
1400 A 10-minute rule motion on Anti-Loitering Devices (Regulation)
1415 Trade Bill – remaining stages – May’s next showdown
Parking (Code of Practice) Bill – ways and means resolution
The motion on bringing forward the summer recess is expected to be taken after 1900. If opposed, the division will be deferred until July 18. It will be a paper vote.
Editor of Politics Home, Kevin Schofield confirmed Labour will vote AGAINST an early recess.
11:11am update: Mr Farron’s statement comes as he and current Lib Dem leader came under fire for not being at vote
There has been no official comments yet from Sir Vince despite both of their absences being widely condemned by Remainers on social media.
Mr Farron was giving a talk at Sherborne town hall in Dorset on how he squares his controversial views as an evangelical Christian with being a liberal politician and Sir Vince was attending a meeting away from parliament.
When asked about their failure to vote last night, Lib Dem Brexit spokesman Tom Brake said party chiefs had not anticipated such a close result.
A Lib Dem source said: “Vince had an important meeting off the parliamentary estate that had been approved by the whips and nobody thought these amendments would ever be so close.
“The Chequers plan is unworkable in any form and our aim is to stop Brexit. These amendments don’t make it any more workable, the whole thing is unworkable.”
The Government passed two amendments by just three votes
10:42am update: Also on the table for today
MPs will also vote today on whether to start their summer recess on Thursday instead of next Tuesday.
The move is likely to outrage many members of the public concerned about the divisions over Brexit and the ticking clock counting down to exit day.
But an early holiday would stymie Tory MPs plotting against the increasingly politically fragile premier.
10:38am update: Former Lib Dem leader Tim Farron releases statement on why he was not at Commons vote
Mr Farron said he didn’t expect the vote to be so close and that “the Tories don’t deserve any luck”.
He tweeted: “I was authorised to be absent from the vote last night for a pre-arranged engagement. Nobody expected the vote to be as close as it was. We clearly called it wrong, as did Labour, and I take full responsibility for my part – the Tories don’t deserve any luck.”
His full statement reads: “I was authorised to be absent due to a pre-arranged engagement away from the Parliamentary estate.
“In the end nobody expected the vote to be as close as it was – I’d actually cancalled the engagement earlier on, but then uncancelled because we expected Labour to abstain and the Government to win by miles.
“We clearly called it wrong, as did Labour. I take full reponsiblity for my part. The Tories don’t deserve any luck, I’m so sorry I inadverterntly granted them some.”
Mr Farron is expected to be at the vote tonight.
1 of 14
9:58am update: Spin doctor calls for a second referndum
Alastair Campbell said it “might be time to think again”.
He tweeted: “BREXIT – Chaos in Commons. Criminality in Leave campaign. Living standards hit. Treason from our supposed post-Brexit closest ally. Might be time to think again
9:16am update: Remainics were prepared to stand down
Pro-Europe Tory rebel Heidi Allen suggested she and the Remain camp were read to drop their own amendments to the Chequers deal before the “extreme last-minute manoevres” by the European Research Group.
She told Today: “What was agreed at Chequers wasn’t perfect to us, wasn’t perfect to Leavers either, but the PM has worked exceptionally hard to find a decent first pitch to put the EU and to move forward from that.
“We were all set to drop all our amendments and back it and then suddenly we had these rather extreme last-minute manoeuvres from the ERG which seemed to us to deviate the Prime Minister from her plan and we weren’t prepared to let them do that – or at least try.”
8:52am update: No second referendum
Mr Fox responds to called for a second referendum by saying: “What if we have a referendum and it goes the other way? Do we have best of three?”
He also defended the move to cut the parliamentary session short.
He said: “Well, of course, you have to draw the distinction between parliament and government, because government doesn’t stop over the recess.”
8:37am update: Early morning reassurances
International Trade Secretary Liam Fox insisted the Chequers Cabinet compromise on Brexit is not dead.
He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “The wording of the amendment yesterday was very close to the wording in the Government’s White Paper.
“It looked in fact as a bit of a cut and paste from the White Paper.”
Mr Fox said he wants a “people’s Brexit”.
He added: “We can’t please everybody.
“We have to have a compromise position that enables the country to get an agreement with the European Union.
“Here in Britain there is far too much negative, self-doubting pessimism in this process.”