Boris Johnson Will Try To Quell A Growing Brexit Rebellion With A Commons Speech
Boris Johnson will lead the debate on the Internal Market bill in the Commons amid a growing Tory rebellion (PA)
Boris Johnson will move to try to quell a growing rebellion over his plans to break international law by addressing MPs this afternoon, following the first Tory resignation over the row.
The business secretary Alok Sharma had been due to open this afternoon’s Commons debate on the controversial Internal Market bill, which seeks to alter the existing Brexit divorce deal.
But Number 10 said this lunchtime it will instead be the Prime Minister appearing at the despatch box, after all his living predecessors expressed concerns over the new legislation.
This morning the former Attorney General Geoffrey Cox became the latest high-profile critic of the bill, which alters elements of the Withdrawal Agreement signed by the UK and the EU, when he said breaking the rule of law “ultimately leads to very long term, and permanent damage to this country's reputation”.
And his fellow Conservative MP and lawyer Rehman Chishti revealed he is quitting as special envoy on freedom of religion over the plans, saying the “values of respecting rule of law and honouring one’s word are dear to me”.
In a letter to Mr Johnson he said he was a firm supporter of the PM, but added: “During my 10 years in Parliament and before that as a barrister I have always acted in a manner which respects the rule of law.
“I feel strongly about the commitments we make, if we give our word we must honour it. Voting for this bill as it currently stands would be contrary to the values I hold dearest.”
Mr Chishti’s intervention comes after a host of Tories expressed their dissatisfaction with the government’s intention to breach international law, putting the bill’s passage through Parliament at risk.
It comes after former ministers Damian Green, George Freeman and Sir Oliver Heald all sponsored an amendment by select committee chair Sir Bob Neill requiring the government to get parliamentary approval to disapply the terms of the Northern Ireland protocol in the Withdrawal Agreement.
There are now suggestions Downing Street may threaten to remove the whip from MPs who rebel on the second reading of the bill this evening to crush the revolt.
It is believed around 30 Tories are set to either vote against or abstain on the bill during its first vote tonight, but a spokesman for Mr Johnson did not suggest this was why he would now open the debate.
They said: “It's a critical piece of legislation for the UK, and as the Prime Minister has been doing over the course of the past week he will be setting that out to the House of Commons.”
Adding: "The bill will protect seamless trade and jobs across all four corners of the United Kingdom following the end of transition period. It will guarantee UK companies can trade unhindered in every part of the UK while maintaining world-leading standards for consumers, workers, food and the environment."
The spokesman told reporters it will also "deliver a legal safety net" which removes any "ambiguity should an agreement not be reached" with the EU, and ensures "ministers can always deliver on their obligations to Northern Ireland and protects the gains from the peace process".