Could the House of Lords thwart Boris Johnson's Brexit plans?

Daniel Fowler
September 12, 2020

The new bill is an "insurance policy" if Britain and the European Union cannot find agreement by the end of the transition period, business minister Nadim Zahawi said, as "we can't allow any adverse impacts on the communities in Northern Ireland".

Simultaneous talks on a future trade deal also remained in a rut, with European Union chief negotiator Michel Barnier accusing Britain of wanting to keep the advantages of membership it freely relinquished on January 31 when it officially left the bloc.

On Thursday, it said it would try to push the bill into law quickly, scheduling it for debate in parliament starting Monday.

Earlier on Friday the Taoiseach said Europe is united in its determination to do the best for the people of Ireland.

BiE said calls from some British Brexiter MPs to scrap the WA deal altogether (if the parties can not conclude a "future relationship" deal in coming weeks) had only "reinforced that message".

The meeting was called by Mr Šefčovič after the publication of Prime Minister Boris Johnson's Internal Market Bill on September 9 - which seeks to undermine elements of the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement.

"It's not about if we implement the (EU) Withdrawal Agreement and the Northern Irish Protocol, it's how we implement it", business minister Nadim Zahawi said.

Leaders of the bloc vowed to stand together as time runs short to find a smooth economic transition before Britain leaves the EU's economic structures on December 31.

We will never accept any kind of decision that might weaken or jeopardize the European single market, French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said.

But it says the breach is minor, and denies trying to renege on the agreement, which commits both sides to ensuring there are no customs posts or other obstacles on the Northern Ireland-Ireland border.

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"We are not going to carry out any "empty chair" diplomacy, that is quite clear", he said.

Irish premier Micheal Martin, who spoke by phone with UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Wednesday evening, said such an outcome would be "gross irresponsibility" on top of the economic havoc inflicted by COVID-19.

Even if the Bill makes it through the Commons there are major question marks over whether it will survive the House of Lords where peers are furious at the plans to knowingly break global law.

Opposition has also been brewing in the House of Lords, with Lord Howard of Lympne, a prominent Brexiteer, becoming the third former Tory leader to reject Downing Street's plans for having the potential to do damage to Britain's global reputation.

The legislation, which the Government is hoping to crash through the House of Commons in the next two weeks, will enable the United Kingdom to unilaterally make decisions about key issues, like customs arrangements between mainland Britain and Northern Ireland, contained within the Withdrawal Agreement.

French government spokesman Gabriel Attal said that "we are ready to negotiate in good faith, but to do that, we need to be two and so we are waiting for an interlocutor of good faith".

Brussels has also made clear that trade talks are at risk of collapse if Mr Johnson does not perform a U-turn - but Michael Gove has vowed the Government will not be changing course.

One of the lawmakers, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Johnson's message had been well received.

The UK legislation, if passed by Parliament, will remove the EU's power to impose checks and tariffs in the event that there is no EU-UK-agreement, giving that power instead to the British government.

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