British MPs back Brexit bill despite EU anger

Cheryl Sanders
September 16, 2020

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson continues to ship scathing criticisms - but his plan to break an European Union treaty and change Northern Ireland's special trade status is marching on.

The EU has demanded Britain scrap the main parts of the bill by the end of September and that if not, there will be no trade deal at the end of the year to cover everything from auto parts to food.

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 of Johnson's own Conservative MPs expressed alarm about breaking worldwide law, with ex-finance minister Sajid Javid and former attorney general Geoffrey Cox among those saying beforehand that they would not back the bill as it stood.

The legislation has come under fire from all five living former prime ministers, including Mr Johnson's immediate predecessors Theresa May and David Cameron, as well as Brexit-backing Tory grandees like former leader Michael Howard and ex-chancellor Norman Lamont.

The EU has rejected Johnson's version of events and threatened to take legal action against the British government if it did not drop the proposed bill by the end of September.

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.

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".

Boris Johnson's plan to override key elements of the Brexit deal he signed with Brussels has cleared its first Commons hurdle, despite anger over it from many Tories.

"That illusion must be decently despatched".

Mr Johnson said some on the EU side even wanted to designate all goods moving from Britain to Northern Ireland as being "at risk" of entering the EU single market, making them liable to EU tariffs.

Johnson temporarily halted the deadlock by sealing a divorce deal with Brussels late a year ago, which he used to win a thumping 80-seat victory in a December general election.

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.

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

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.

One from senior Conservative MP Bob Neill has attracted some support, and would give parliament, not ministers, the power to decide whether to overrule the Brexit treaty. I'll very happily give way to him.

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