Bill to override parts of Brexit deal clears first hurdle

Daniel Fowler
September 15, 2020

MPs backed the Internal Market Bill by 340 votes to 263.

A proposed law giving Boris Johnson's government the power to override parts of the Brexit agreement with the European Union has passed its first hurdle in the Commons.

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.

They will now begin detailed scrutiny of the bill with Conservative MPs seeking further assurances that the United Kingdom will not betray its treaty obligations.

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.

Speaking to reporters on Monday morning, Mr Cameron said: "Passing an act of parliament and then going on to break an global treaty obligation is the very, very last thing you should contemplate".

While the language of the bill does state it would "have effect notwithstanding any relevant global 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.

Later in the parliamentary debate, Miliband said of the bill: "What the Prime Minister is coming to this House to tell us today is that his flagship achievement, the deal he told us was a triumph, the deal he said was "oven-ready", the deal on which he fought and won the general election is now contradictory and ambiguous".

The Northern Ireland Protocol, created to prevent a hard border returning to the island of Ireland, was negotiated and agreed by Johnson last autumn.

Brexit: Internal Market Bill clears first hurdle in Commons
Former chancellor Sajid Javid and former attorney general Geoffrey Cox were among those who made clear they would not support the Bill in its current form.

Several prominent Conservatives, including former Chancellor Sajid Javid, have said they could not support the final bill unless it is amended, with several expected to have abstained in Monday's vote.

Meanwhile, Labour leader Keir Starmer announced that he is isolating after a family member showed possible signs of Covid-19 infection.

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

The current version of the bill does not contain such a provision, however Sir Bob Neill, the chairman of the Commons justice committee, has tabled an amendment that would require MPs to approve any use of its powers.

"Either he was not straight with the country in the first place or he did not understand it", said Miliband.

Speaking in the House of Commons on Monday evening, Johnson said the bill was "a package of protective powers" that was "essential to guaranteeing the integrity and sovereignty of the UK" and pinned the blame for needing it on the EU's "extreme" approach and "lack of common sense".

Labour's amendment to block the United Kingdom Internal Market Bill from receiving a second reading was defeated earlier by 349 votes to 213, majority 136.

"It is critical that we pass this Bill before the end of the year".

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