Government agrees to compromise with Tory rebels over controversial Brexit bill

The Government has agreed to a compromise with Tory rebels over the controversial UK Internal Market Bill, giving MPs a vote before using powers which would break international law.

Following constructive talks over the last few days, the Government has agreed to table an amendment for Committee Stage.

The bill, which looks at how England trades with Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland post-Brexit, has proved controversial both in and outside of the House of Commons.

It gives the Government power to change aspects of the European Withdrawal agreement – a legally-binding deal which was signed with Brussels in January.

Around 30 Tory rebels were thought to be preparing to vote for an amendment on Tuesday which would have required a Commons vote before the provisions in the Bill relating to Northern Ireland could come into force.

MPs debated the Internal Market Bill in the Commons (PA)

A joint statement issued on behalf of Downing Street and Conservative MPs Sir Bob Neill and Damian Green said: “This amendment will require the House of Commons to vote for a motion before a minister can use the ‘notwithstanding’ powers contained in the U.K. Internal Market Bill.

“The Internal Market Bill was designed to give MPs and Peers a vote on the use of these powers via statutory instrument. But following talks, it is agreed that the Parliamentary procedure suggested by some colleagues provides a clearer, more explicit democratic mandate for the use of these powers, and also provides more legal certainty.

“The Government will table another amendment which sets clear limits on the scope and timeliness of judicial review into the exercise of these powers. This will provide people and businesses with the certainty that they need.

“We welcome the way the Parliamentary Party has come together on these issue. There is near-unanimous agreement that the Government must be able to use these powers as a final resort, that there must be legal certainty, and that no further amendments are required on these powers.”

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It comes after the Government’s top law officer for Scotland resigned amid reports he was unhappy about the controversial UK Internal Market Bill.

Lord Keen of Elie QC, the Advocate General, was reported to be deeply unhappy after ministers admitted the provisions in the Brexit bill would breach international law.

Labour’s shadow attorney general Lord Falconer said: “This has been a week of chaos from the Government’s own law officers, whose legal advice has been renounced by its own Government and the voice of the law officers has been muted, and their authority is completely shot.

“This has been a farce that shames the entire Government.”

Earlier European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen, warned the UK could not unilaterally set aside the Withdrawal Agreement which settled the terms of its “divorce”.

In her annual State of the Union address to the European Parliament, Mrs von der Leyen said both sides had agreed it was the only way to guarantee the Northern Ireland peace process.

Mr Johnson has insisted the Bill is intended to provide a legal “safety net” to protect the peace process and ensure the EU could not impose tariffs on goods moving to Northern Ireland from the rest of the UK.

Addressing the Parliament in Brussels, Mrs von der Leyen said: “This Withdrawal Agreement took three years to negotiate and we worked relentlessly on it line-by-line, word-by-word, and together we succeeded.

“The European Union and the UK jointly agreed that it was the best and only way for ensuring peace on the island of Ireland and we will never backtrack on that.

“This agreement has been ratified by this house and the House of Commons. It cannot be unilaterally changed, disregarded or disapplied.

“This is a matter of law and trust and good faith.”


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