MPs express anger during Internal Market Bill debate

Andrew Cummings
September 15, 2020

MPs in the House of Commons gave their initial approval to the UK Internal Market Bill by 340 votes to 263, clearing the way for four days of detailed scrutiny of the text this week and next.

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".

The PM said it is "necessary" to row back on aspects of a Brexit agreement - and in the process breach global law - in order to "stop a foreign power from breaking up our country".

Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney has said for many people it is "pretty shocking that the British government is voting through its parliament a bill that breaks worldwide law".

Addressing the House of Commons, Johnson claimed the European Union was using arrangements in the Brexit deal meant to protect peace in Northern Ireland as "leverage" in ongoing trade talks.

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.

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".

Sir Charles Walker, the vice-chairman of the powerful Tory backbench 1922 Committee, and Wakefield MP Imran Ahmad Khan - a member of last year's new intake of Conservative MPs - said they would not be supporting the Bill at second reading.

In a bid to head off a growing revolt, Mr Johnson told MPs they would have an extra vote before the controversial powers were used.

Johnson acknowledged on Monday that "some people will feel unease over the use of these powers - and I share that sentiment myself".

Last week the European Commission gave Johnson until the end of September to withdraw the bill and threatened to take legal action against the United Kingdom, with Commission Vice-President Maroš Šefčovič describing the bill as an "extremely serious violation" of the Withdrawal Agreement which had "seriously damaged trust between the EU and the UK".

Senior conservative lawmaker Detlef Seif said the British plan to pass legislation that breaks its divorce treaty with the European Union, in a breach of global law, undermined Britain's credibility as a negotiating partner.

"Either he wasn't straight with the country about the deal in the first place or he didn't understand it", Miliband said. On Monday, Rehman Chisti, MP for Gillingham and Rainham, resigned as a government special envoy on what he called "a matter of principle". A deal is only probable very late in the day now and hence any short-term GBP bounce will not last with potential big GBP declines still to come, according to MUFG Bank.

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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