This week, it was easy to forget about Brexit. The airstrikes in Syria, along with the appalling treatment of the Windrush generation rightly dominated the front pages. However, Teresa May's Brexit troubles have been simmering in the background all the while. In the past few days, the government lost two crucial Brexit-related votes, and these defeats were capped on Friday by the EU's rejection of May's latest proposal for the Irish Border. Yes, it's been a bad week for Brexiteers.

House of Lords Brexit defeat

On Wednesday, the House Of Lords carried an amendment to the EU withdrawal bill by 123 votes in one of the largest votes on record.

According to the Guardian, former Conservative ministers backed the amendment which commits the government to declare its action in relation to the customs union. Shadow Brexit secretary, Keir Starmer, told the Guardian that support for staying in a customs union of some kind was growing: “There is a growing view, I think a majority view in parliament now, that it is in our national interest and economic interest to stay in a customs union with the EU. We’ve got a huge manufacturing sector in the UK that needs to be protected,”

In response, Michael Gove acknowledged that the government would need the support of ministers to push its Brexit plans through. However speaking on BBC 4 Radia, he reiterated that leaving the customs union would have significant benefits:"...being able to sign our own free trade deals is a compelling and persuasive one and I know when that case is put to the Commons that it will rally Conservative MPs and others behind it.”

In the same interview, he vowed not to allow this vote to derail Brexit.

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House of Commons Brexit defeat

In the House of Commons, Conservative rebels voted against Teresa May's EU withdrawal bill. They backed an amendment regarding the parliament's right to vote on the Brexit deal, thus inflicting a major blow to the prime minister's flagship EU withdrawal bill. Amendment seven had initially been tabled by Dominic Grieve and was later also backed by MP, Heidi Allen, the former business minister, Anna Soubry, and by Nicky Morgan, the former education secretary.

After a lengthy debate, the vote was carried by 309 votes to 305, marking Teresa May's first-ever Brexit defeat in the House of Commons. The amendment limits the power of ministers to make Brexit-related legislative changes without the approval of parliament. The narrow victory illustrates the deep divisions, not just among Tory MPs, but also within the Labour Party. According to the Guardian, the Tory whip failed, while Jeremy Corbyn is reported to have phoned a number of his own MPs, urging them to support Grieve's amendment.

Speaking to the Guardian, one MP said this defeat "has broken the damn. It will be much, much easier to do it again. Rebelling once gives you a taste for it."

EU rejects latest Irish border proposals

According to a Daily Telegraph report, the EU has rejected the UK government's latest proposals on avoiding a hard border with Ireland. A Daily Telegraph's source was briefed on the meeting and was told that none of the proposals would work. During this week's meeting between the UK's lead Brexit negotiator and senior EU officials, the prime minister's Irish border proposal faced "systematic and forensic annihilation". Sources told the Daily Telegraph that "it was a detailed and forensic rebuttal. It was made clear that none of the UK’s customs options will work. None of them." In reaction, a spokesperson for the British government said that it would continue "intensive work programme to engage".

Technological solutions are believed to have been among the proposals, along with a close economic relationship with the Republic of Ireland that would render customs checks unnecessary. The third option would see Northern Ireland remain in the customs union, with the border effectively running down the Irish Sea. However, the prime minister previously vehemently rejected this option.

According to the Telegraph, Teresa May's proposal for a "customs partnership" was also rejected because the EU believes it to be unimplementable and far too costly.