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Boris Johnson's Controversial Brexit Bill Has Cleared Its First Parliamentary Hurdle

3 min read

Boris Johnson's controversial bill to change parts of the Brexit deal, which will see the UK break international law, has cleared its second reading vote in the House of Commons.

Earler, the Prime Minister appeared in the chamber to claim the EU was keeping the “revolver on the table” in trade negotiations.

The Prime Minister made the claim as he and former leader Ed Miliband traded blows in the Commons ahead of the crunch vote on internal market bill, which the government won late in the evening by 340 to 263.

More than a dozen Tory MPs, including former chancellor Sajid Javid, had been set to abstain on the vote, significantly denting Johnson’s 80 seat majority for the first time since the 2019 general election.  

Johnson appeared in person in the Commons to ask MPs to vote for the bill which would allow him to overrule parts of the withdrawal agreement. This would give the UK the right to unilaterally interpret key trade arrangements between Britain and Northern Ireland and make judgements on state aid.

He claimed the EU was going to “unreasonable and extreme” lengths to have future control over the UK in terms of trade, which may include blockading food by failing to list UK food and agricultural products for sale in the EU.

Johnson said: “As we debate this matter the EU has not taken that particular revolver off the table. And I hope they will do so and that we can reach a Canada-style free trade agreement as well.

"Indeed it is such an extraordinary threat and it seems so incredible the EU can do this, that we are not taking powers in this bill to neutralise that threat, but obviously reserve the right to do so if these threats persist.

“I’m afraid these threats reveal the spirit in which some of our friends are currently minded to conduct these negotiations.”

All five living former British prime ministers have expressed concerns over Johnson threatening to break international law to disapply parts of the Northern Ireland protocol in the withdrawal agreement.

Former Labour leader Ed Miliband, who is now shadow business secretary, responded on behalf of Labour with a fiery line-by-line attack on Johnson’s justification for breaking the law.  

He said his talk of EU food blockades was ridiculous, that they were negotiating with a “blunderbuss” approach and his “bill gets Brexit undone".

“I don’t like the ramping up of the rhetoric from the European Union. Even by the standards of this Prime Minister, this is as ridiculous an argument I've ever heard," he said.

Miliband said the bill was not even about food transport from Britain to Northern Ireland, only exit declarations and state aid. 

He called the government incompetent and added that the prime minister had to take responsibility for the deal that he signed last autumn, saying: "He can’t blame the judges, he can't blame the civil servants, he can’t sack the cabinet secretary again, there's only one person responsible for it and that's him. This is his deal, his mess, his failure.

"For the first time in his life it’s time to take responsibility. It’s time to fess up. Either he wasn't straight with the country in the first place or he didn't understand it."

He said the government had no need to override the withdrawal agreement because it included a body designed to resolve issues such as goods at risk of going into the EU, the joint committee on the Northern Ireland protocol.


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