British MPs back Brexit bill despite anger over treaty breach

Cornelia Mascio
Settembre 15, 2020

Johnson says the UK Internal Market Bill will ensure "unfettered access" for trade after that within the UK's four nations - Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

The prime minister has been criticised for his plan to pass a law allowing him override parts of the Brexit withdrawal agreement; all the UK's living former prime ministers have spoken out against the move.

However, although the Johnson government wants to fast-track the law so that it can be on the statute in the event that an EU-UK trade pact is not finalised before the end of 2020, it is likely to face difficulties in the House of Lords, where Conservative lawmakers are in a minority.

Although MPs on Monday defeated a Labour attempt to try to kill the bill, amendments have already been proposed for debate during four days of detailed scrutiny starting Tuesday. It would also overturn state aid rules in Northern Ireland.

The bill is created to enable goods and services to flow freely across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland when the United Kingdom leaves the EU's single market and customs union on 1 January 2021.

The Scottish National Party also slammed the bill, saying that it "breaks worldwide law, attacks Scotland's democracy, threatens our NHS & public services, imposes an extreme Brexit against our will".

While the language of the bill does state it would "have effect notwithstanding any relevant worldwide or domestic law with which they may be incompatible or inconsistent", the prime minister has stated that an additional vote would be required before the law's powers could be invoked, apparently hoping to assure opponents and hold back a rebellion within his own party. "That is the fundamental goal of this bill", he told the MPs.

But the legislation would see London unilaterally regulate United Kingdom trade and state aid within Northern Ireland - in violation of the Brexit treaty, that demands Brussels have a say.

"Breaking global law is a step that should never be taken lightly", wrote Tory MP and former chancellor Sajid Javid in a statement, adding that he could not support "pre-emptively reneging" on the withdrawal agreement and that he would not be supporting the bill on its second reading on Tuesday.

Labour's Ed Miliband, deputising for party leader Keir Starmer who was forced to self-isolate at home, accused Johnson of "legislative hooliganism" for threatening to break a treaty that he had negotiated and successfully won an election campaigning on.

"I believe very strongly we should obey global law".

Up to 30 Tory MPs are expected to back a rebel amendment tabled by Sir Bob Neill, the chair of the justice select committee, to the bill.

"I regret to have to tell the House that in recent months the European Union has suggested that it is ready to go to extreme and unreasonable lengths using the Northern Ireland Protocol in a way that goes well beyond common sense, simply to exert leverage against the United Kingdom in our negotiations for a free trade agreement", he claimed.

"Either he wasn't straight with the country about the deal in the first place or he didn't understand it", Mr Miliband said.

"We welcome the fact that this vital Bill has passed its second reading", a spokesman for the Government said.

He says that threatens the integrity of the UK.

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