MPs will debate a key amendment to the UK Internal Markets Bill during its second reading this afternoon, when it will also be put to a vote before passing to committee stage. Up to 30 MPs are expected to back the amendment that will give ministers sweeping new powers to ensure Northern Ireland can enjoy unfettered access to UK markets without the EU’s input.
However, a Tory rebellion over the proposed legislation is intensifying with a number of backbench MPs intending to abstain from Monday’s vote. It follows Justice Secretary Robert Buckland saying he would resign if the rule of law was broken in a way he he finds “unacceptable”.
Meanwhile, former attorney general Geoffrey Cox delivered a heavy blow to the Prime Minister on Sunday night by declaring that he will vote against the bill if ministers use it to override the Withdrawal Agreement. He said it would be “unconscionable” for the UK to tear up an international agreement.
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Conservative MP Michael Fabricant comes out for the bill:
Reactions flood in after Goeffrey Cox says he will vote against bill which overrides withdrawal agreement:
Former Northern Ireland secretary Theresa Villiers has ruled out rebelling on the Internal Market Bill.
Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, she said: “I will be supporting the Bill because I think it is sensible to have a fall-back position if the EU continues to refuse to negotiate reasonably on arrangements for transporting goods between Great Britain and Northern Ireland.”
Ms Villiers said the Government was “certainly taking a tough approach” to the negotiations with Brussels by tabling the legislation but added that the measures in the Bill would only be required if no agreement was forthcoming on how the Northern Ireland Protocol could be “exercised”.
She added that a “day-to-day part of the international law system” involved discrepancies over its domestic application, citing David Cameron’s refusal to introduce votes for prisoners despite a ruling from the European Court of Human Rights.
Kit Malthouse said arguments against the UK Internal Market Bill do not “solve the problem we’re faced with”.
Asked what he thought of former attorney general Geoffrey Cox’s intervention at the weekend, Mr Malthouse told the BBC: “Well it’s very poetic but it doesn’t, for me personally, solve the problem that we’re faced with, which is we’re in a situation where if this third-country status is withheld from the UK.
“It means that food exports from GB to Northern Ireland could in theory become illegal in the future and in those circumstances I’m not quite sure what a British Prime Minister is supposed to do.
“What we’ve done is to say transparently that this is a situation which we think may occur, certainly that’s what’s being intimated from the EU, that it’s a problem we have to solve so here’s a bill that solves it.”
He added: “In the end those people that oppose this bill have to tell us what the resolution is.”
The Policing Minister has admitted that the Government could be breaking international law with their plans to override the Brexit treaty:
The Policing Minister has admitted that the Government could be breaking international law with their plans to override the Brexit treaty.
The Prime Minister is facing a revolt from Tory MPs over plans that would break international law and allow him to renege on parts of his Brexit deal.
Home Office minister Kit Malthouse has said he will vote for the UK Internal Market Bill even if it breaks international law.
He told BBC Breakfast: “I’ll be voting for the bill because I don’t believe that if that circumstance should arise, where food is prevented from moving from GB to Northern Ireland, that the Prime Minister has any choice but to take powers to allow Tesco to stock the shelves in Belfast.”
Asked if he would do so even if it broke international law, the Tory MP added: “I will be voting for the bill this afternoon, yes.”
Policing minister Kit Malthouse said the Internal Market Bill, which threatens to override elements of the Withdrawal Agreement, is necessary to keep food flowing between Britain and Northern Ireland.
Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, he said: “For me – I mean I’m not a lawyer – it looks fairly clear to me, which is we can’t allow a situation where GB cannot supply food into Northern Ireland.”
Told the European Union had said that would not be the case, he added: “Well it would be perfectly possible for them to rule that out by saying they will guarantee recognition of the UK as a third country.”
Asked about whether former attorney general Geoffrey Cox, who has come out in opposition to the Bill, was “wrong”, Mr Malthouse said: “I would ask for a solution to that conundrum.
“If we get to a situation where we are not recognised as a third country and it therefore becomes illegal to move food to Northern Ireland, what is the UK Prime Minister supposed to do?
“I think this is the solution that needs to be offered if we’re going to have resolution to that – Northern Ireland is unequivocally part of the UK customs territory, so the fact that is now being brought into question is a very difficult thing for us to face, very concerning but no doubt that will all be thrashed out this afternoon.”
Labour shadow business secretary Ed Miliband said the Government’s plan to use domestic law to override the Withdrawal Agreement with Brussels was an act of “legislative hooliganism”.
Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, the former Labour leader said: “The fundamental thing is – I think we should take a step back – this is not normal.
“I’ve come on your programme many times to discuss many issues – I have never been on your programme discussing a British government coming along and seeking to break international law, an agreement it signed.
“It is honestly a sad day and that’s why I think you hear people across the political spectrum condemning the Government.”
He added: “Of the most sensitive issues around Northern Ireland, at the most sensitive stage of the Brexit negotiations – I mean it’s sort of legislative hooliganism that the Government is engaged in and it will be self-defeating, I fear.”
Good morning! Here’s the latest from the intensifying row over the Internal Markets Bill:
Geoffrey Cox has dealt a blow to Boris Johnson’s Brexit plans by declaring he will vote against a controversial new bill if ministers use it to override the Withdrawal Agreement.
MPs will begin to debate the UK Internal Market Bill on Monday with a Tory rebellion against it gaining momentum.
That’s all from our blog for tonight, thank you for following!
Pro-Brexit Tory MP Sir Bernard Jenkin expresses concern about ‘reputational damage’
The strongly pro-Brexit Tory MP Sir Bernard Jenkin has expressed concern about the Government’s plans to override key elements of the Withdrawal Agreement.
Sir Bernard, the leader of the Tory European Research Group, said the admission by ministers that provisions in the Internal Market Bill breached international law had been “very surprising”.
“The Prime Minister should be more mindful of the reputational damage of playing such hardball when there’s really no consensus from the country to go about breaking international agreements,” he told LBC radio.
For Labour, shadow cabinet office minister Rachel Reeve said: “The Government promised the British people they would deliver their ‘oven-ready’ deal but just months later they are seeking to undo it, squandering valuable time and losing focus during a pandemic.”
Legal expert shocked by choice of state aid as Brexit battleground
Treasury solicitor (who resigned yesterday but is serving 3 months notice) weighs in
‘Significant differences remain’, Barnier tells UK
The EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier has said “significant differences” remain following the latest round of talks in London on a post-Brexit free trade agreement.
In a statement he said that while the EU had shown “flexibility” the UK “has not engaged in a reciprocal way on fundamental EU principles and interests”.
“The UK is refusing to include indispensable guarantees of fair competition in our future agreement, while requesting free access to our market,” he said.
Britain’s negotiator Lord Frost said there had been “useful exchanges” but that there were still “a number of challenging areas” and that some of the divergences remained “significant”.
“We remain committed to working hard to reach agreement by the middle of October, as the Prime Minister set out earlier this week,” he said, adding talks would resume next week in Brussels.
Cambridge University law professor slams Braverman
UK’s relationship with EU plunged into crisis
Britain’s relationship with the EU has been plunged into crisis after ministers rejected a demand by Brussels to drop plans to override key elements of the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement.
At a stormy meeting in London, European Commission vice president Maros Sefcovic gave the UK until the end of the month to drop the controversial provisions in the Internal Market Bill or face the potential collapse of talks on a free trade agreement.
However, Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove – who co-chairs a joint committee on the Withdrawal Agreement with Mr Sefcovic – said the Government was not prepared to back down.
“I explained to vice president Sefcovic that we could not and would not do that,” he told reporters following the meeting.
“I made it perfectly clear to vice president Sefcovic that we would not be withdrawing this legislation. He understood that. Of course he regretted it.”
Gove stands firm
Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove has said he told the European Commission vice president that the Government “would not and could not” withdraw its Internal Market Bill.
Labour accuses AG of ‘failure to uphold rule of law’
Labour has accused Attorney General Suella Braverman of having “failed in her duty to uphold the rule of law in this country”, after Government legal advice on the new Brexit Bill was published.
Shadow attorney general Lord Falconer said: “The Attorney General offers no justification whatsoever for the UK acting in breach of the Northern Ireland Protocol and there is no justification for breaking the terms of that agreement.
“This advice does not address the issue of a breach of international law. The Attorney General has conspicuously failed in her duty to uphold the rule of law in this country.”
AG maintains the government would not be acting unconstitutionally
Parliament would not be acting “unconstitutionally” in enacting the UK Internal Market Bill, according to a statement published by the Government about the controversial legislation.
It stated: “It is an established principle of international law that a state is obliged to discharge its treaty obligations in good faith. This is, and will remain, the key principle in informing the UK’s approach to international relations.
“However, in the difficult and highly exceptional circumstances in which we find ourselves, it is important to remember the fundamental principle of Parliamentary sovereignty.
“Parliament is sovereign as a matter of domestic law and can pass legislation which is in breach of the UK’s treaty obligations. Parliament would not be acting unconstitutionally in enacting such legislation.”
The statement went on: “The legislation which implements the Withdrawal Agreement, including the Northern Ireland Protocol, is expressly subject to the principle of parliamentary sovereignty.
“Parliament’s ability to pass provisions that would take precedence over the Withdrawal Agreement was expressly confirmed in section 38 of the European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Act 2020, with specific reference to the EU law concept of ‘direct effect’.”
Ireland’s foreign affairs minister thanks Mr Sefcovic for his statement