Published: Tue, September 15, 2020
Economy | By

Brexit: Internal Market Bill clears first hurdle in Commons

Brexit: Internal Market Bill clears first hurdle in Commons

MPs voted to give the UK Internal Market Bill a second reading by 340 to 263 - a government majority of 77.

Conservative commentators such as Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, global business editor at The Daily Telegraph, have argued that the Johnson administration is right not to tie its hands behind its act by adhering to largely non-binding worldwide rules, however.

Responding to the Prime Minister's claims that the bill is needed for barrier-free trade with Northern Ireland, Miliband said: "This bill does precisely nothing to address the issue of the transport of food from Great Britain to Northern Ireland".

"Let's just get this straight for a minute, because I think it is important to take a step back, what the Prime Minister is coming to the House to tell us today is that his flagship achievement, the deal he told us was a triumph, the deal he said, as I said, was "oven-ready", the deal which he fought and won the general election is now contradictory and ambiguous", he said, standing in front of Johnson.

"These steps are a safety net, they're a long-stop in the event - which I don't believe will come about but we do need to be ready for - that the European Union follow through on what some have said they might do, which is in effect to separate Northern Ireland from the rest of the United Kingdom", he added.

The bloc is demanding that he withdraw the offending parts of the new bill by the end of September or risk no trade deal at the end of the year to cover everything from food to auto parts.

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.

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.

The EU has warned that overriding parts of the worldwide legislation will place the chance of securing a trade deal at risk.


Johnson has made clear he has cast the bill as a defensive insurance policy aimed at preventing a foreign power from dividing the United Kingdom by using Northern Ireland as leverage.

"I understand how some people will feel unease over the use of these powers and I share that sentiment myself", Johnson said.

Downing Street last week claimed the Brexit deal was agreed "at pace" and the problems with the aspects of the treaty regarding Northern Ireland were unforeseen.

But opposition Labour spokesman Ed Miliband ridiculed the idea.

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

The row threatens to disrupt already tough post-Brexit trade negotiations, fuelling growing fears of failure that would see more than four decades of EU-UK integration come to a crashing halt at the end of this year. On Monday, Rehman Chisti, MP for Gillingham and Rainham, resigned as a government special envoy on what he called "a matter of principle".

David Cameron, prime minister of the United Kingdom at the time of the Brexit referendum, became the last living former British prime minister to express his concerns about the bill, warning hours before the debate that "passing an act of Parliament and then going on to break an global treaty obligation is the very, very last thing you should contemplate".

Even some Brexit-backing Tories are unhappy, with one, Charles Walker, saying: "I'm no fan of the European Union. but surely we have to exhaust all other options before we press the nuclear button".

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