James O'Brien's instant reaction to the Brexit bill passing vote

Elias Hubbard
September 16, 2020

MPs initially backed the Internal Market Bill in last night's vote by 340 votes to 263.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has won the first of several votes on his plan to undercut the Brexit treaty but faces a growing rebellion among MPs who say breaking global law would tarnish Britain's reputation.

But EU leaders have dismissed this as "spin" and warned Johnson to uphold commitments he himself made in the Brexit treaty a year ago - demanding he withdraw the offending parts of the new bill by the end of September.

"When it comes to preserving the integrity of the United Kingdom and clearly delivering for the people of Northern Ireland when it comes to the Good Friday Agreement, we've said from day one. that we would always stand by our word and not compromise when it comes to unfettered access in goods and services but also standing by the Good Friday Agreement", she said on BBC Breakfast.

The legislation also sparked angry debate in London, reminiscent of the years of bitter political battles that followed the 2016 shock referendum vote to leave the EU.

"Breaking worldwide 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.

Every living former prime minister - Conservatives John Major, David Cameron and Theresa May and Labour's Tony Blair and Gordon Brown - also warned of the risk to the UK's global reputation.

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.

As he sought to quell a growing Tory revolt over the measures, he claimed that passing the legislation would strengthen the hand of negotiators trying to strike a trade deal with the EU.

Meanwhile, a Conservative Party former cabinet minister has said it would be "unacceptable" to breach global law with legislation to override the Brexit divorce deal.

"That illusion must be decently despatched".

BORIS Johnson last night defended his attempts to override aspects of the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement by suggesting the European Union was being unreasonable and failing to negotiate in good faith.

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

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

He added: "This is his deal. It's his mess. It's his failure".

The controversial intention to break the agreement caused uproar among parts of the Conservative Party with Tory MP Rehman Chishti stepping down in an act of protest on Monday as the prime minister's special envoy on freedom of religion.

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. I'll very happily give way to him.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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