The government suffered defeat in the Lords yesterday on the issue of staying in a UK-EU customs union after Brexit.
Peers, including Oxford Chancellor and ex-EU Commissioner Lord Patten, voted by 348 to 225 in favour of a plan that would require ministers to report on steps to negotiate a continued union.
Defying the Conservative party whip, Lord Patten said the UK would be worse off outside the EU unless current arrangements continued.
“There are times in one’s political career where what is alleged to be party loyalty comes way behind trying to stand up for the national interest,” he argued.
A total of 24 Conservative peers voted against the government on the customs union amendment to the EU Withdrawal Bill.
Remaining in the customs union would prevent the UK from signing third-party trade agreements with other countries, Downing Street says.
Lord Patten was criticised by former Conservative chancellor Lord Lawson, who said that Patten was putting forward “a political argument dressed up as a trade argument”, amounting to a “wrecking amendment”.
To remain in a customs union while leaving the European Union would leave the UK in a “quasi-colonial” status, he argued.
Will Dry, Oxford undergraduate and co-founder of anti-Brexit campaign group Our Future; Our Choice, said: “Oxford should be proud it has a Chancellor willing to put his country before the party he was once part of.
“Lord Patten is taking a courageous and bold stance, as is, as a matter of fact, Layla Moran. Perhaps the pair could offer Anneliese Dodds some lessons in boldness in the coming weeks.”
Conservative MP and Remain supporter Anna Soubry said in a tweet that the Lords had “put their country first.”
The Lords have put their country first and rebel Conservative peers have been particularly brave. I know many Conservative MPs privately share their support for a customs union/arrangement. I hope they will not vote to remove this wholly sensible & responsible amendment.
— Anna Soubry MP (@Anna_Soubry) April 18, 2018
Oxford University and Lord Patten have been contacted for comment.