ConservativeHome wrote over the weekend that the foundation of Theresa May’s approach to the Customs Union seems to be that there is a majority for it in the Commons. And that she must therefore push the customs partnership idea because it is the only compromise that MPs will accept.
We then questioned whether this was right – citing Caroline Flint’s article in the Sunday Telegraph (“Parliament should reject Brexit game-playing and accept the country’s decision”), and asking how many Labour MPs in Leave-backing seats, especially in the midlands and north, might vote against the Customs Union, or any proposal that looks like it.
And it turns out that at least one Cabinet Minister believes that a pro-Customs Union majority may not exist in Commons, telling this site yesterday that some of these MPs would “probably” abstain.
“Personally I am not convinced of a CU majority,” the Minister said. “I think we can burn off a few of ours plus get a few Labour votes and, equally important, absentions”. The slight danger with the Flints is that they are not reliable allies and you are probably going to put them in an abstain column as against supporting the Government.”
“We have managed to let this narrative establish that the Commons doesn’t support Customs Union exit and frankly we have only ourselves to blame. I think we will need to vote on it, and we have a very decent chance of winning, but it will be tight. The danger is that Number Ten will take a bigger gamble by avoiding the inevitable, and you end up pleasing no-one by trying to get a broken compromise.”