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MPs Have Voted To Reinstate The International Law-Breaking Parts Of The Internal Market Bill

3 min read

MPs have voted to reinstate the controversial parts of the Internal Market Bill that were stripped out by the House of Lords.

The move means the draft legislation will now be sent back to the upper house, starting a “ping pong” in which neither side backs down on the proposed amendments.

Peers in the House of Lords can now accept the government’s changes, retable the amendments, or delay by up to a year — provided a deal with the EU doesn’t come first.

The government is understood to have re-inserted the clauses into the bill which sparked the row with Brussels, and saw the UK admonished by President-elect Joe Biden, as a back-up in case a deal is not made before the end of the transition period.

Ministers have argued that the changes are necessary to uphold free trade within the United Kingdom, although critics claim it will put the Good Friday Agreement at risk.

Earlier on Monday, however, the government revealed it is willing to drop the parts of the Internal Market Bill which a minister admitted would break international law if a Brexit deal can be agreed.

The timing of the reinsertion of the clauses had been expected to cause further complications to the knife-edge talks between lead negotiators Lord Frost and Michel Barnier in Brussels today.

The EU side has suggested it is unwilling to sign off on a deal while the Internal Market Bill still allows the UK to breach aspects of the Brexit withdrawal agreement.

But just a few hours before the debate in Parliament got underway a statement was published on the website with an update on the bill in the light of the ongoing negotiations.

It said: “Discussions continue to progress and final decisions are expected in the coming days. If the solutions being considered in those discussions are agreed, the UK Government would be prepared to remove clause 44 of the UK Internal Market Bill, concerning export declarations. 

“The UK Government would also be prepared to deactivate clauses 45 and 47, concerning state aid, such that they could be used only when consistent with the United Kingdom’s rights and obligations under international law.”

It also said “good progress continues to be made regarding the decision as to which goods are ‘at risk’ of entering the EU market”, one of the key issues with the Northern Ireland Protocol.

The clauses in question are also expected to appear in an accompanying finance bill, but the statement added that in the light of the ongoing discussions “he government will keep under review the content of the forthcoming Taxation Bill'', hinting they will dropped from that legislation too.

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