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Friday 15 February 2019

Theresa May’s government suffered its latest humiliating defeat last night as MPs voted against their “neutral” motion to continue negotiating Brexit in line with the House’s resolution of January 29.

The defeat was caused by the abstention of the all-important European Research Group of Eurosceptic Tory MPs, led by Jacob Rees-Mogg. His deputy Mark Francois had warned on Wednesday night that he would not be able to support the motion because it implicitly accepted the Spelman amendment of the 29th, which explicitly rejected leaving the European Union without a deal. Mogg himself had hinted at his intention to encourage his members to abstain, dubbing it a symbolic vote.

The government, represented at the dispatch box by Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay, tried to downplay the importance of the Spelman amendment by highlighting that it is inconsistent with the previous legislation on the Brexit process that points to a March 29 exit come what may. But his efforts – which stand in contradiction to the indiscreet boasts of Olly Robbins reported earlier in this week – left pro-Brexit MPs unmoved.

The episode should teach Theresa May some lessons, the most important of which is that she will not be able to move forward as the head of the government without the enthusiastic support of her Eurosceptic backbenchers. It certainly won’t be helped by a huge number of her backbenchers breaking away and joining a new party, as one witless government minister last night suggested in a rage

The British people voted Leave, they elected a Tory government that promised to leave the single market and the customs union, and heroic ERG MPs will not let the government get away with ignoring its own promises to the electorate.

Our bright future outside the bloc was highlighted yet again today as the US and the UK signed a trade continuity agreement that will protect £13bn of international trade – whether or not we strike a deal with the EU – by rolling over a Mutual Recognition Agreement on Conformity Assessment.

American politicians are incredibly keen to enhance their trade ties with the United Kingdom and boosting our commerce with the world’s largest economy by signing a comprehensive Free Trade Agreement is only possible by leaving the Customs Union.

Fox said, on signing the continuity pact, that “the UK is prioritising a new FTA with the US after we leave the EU, and we will publish our response to the public consultations about our negotiation approach shortly”. Perhaps, before he does that, he should get some clarity from the prime minister about her absolute intention to leave the customs union – her response to Jeremy Corbyn earlier this week left a disturbing about of wriggle room