MPs back controversial Brexit bill after third reading despite ‘law-breaking’ concerns

The United Kingdom Internal Market Bill, which would give the Government the power to override the Withdrawal Agreement with the EU, has cleared the Commons.

MPs passed the Bill after its third reading by 340 votes to 256, a majority of 84.

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.

Ministers have defended the legislation, as they claim such powers are needed to protect the relationship between Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

Anti Brexit protesters hold signs as the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster Michael Gove leaves the third meeting of the EU-UK Joint Committee outside the UK representation in Brussels, Monday (AP)

They have referenced concerns in Westminster that Brussels could seek to disrupt food goods travelling from Britain to Northern Ireland as part of trade talks.

Earlier this month, the Government was forced to reach a compromise with Tory rebels, who staunchly opposed the bill, by giving ministers giving a vote before using the powers which would break international law.

Speaking at third reading, Business Secretary Alok Sharma told MPs: “Our approach will give businesses the regulatory clarity and certainty they want.

“It will ensure the cost of doing business in the UK stays as low as possible, and it’ll do so without damaging and costly regulatory barriers emerging between the different parts of the United Kingdom.”

Mr Sharma accused SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford of wanting to be “shackled to the European Union forever”, to which Mr Blackford replied: “You’re talking nonsense.”

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Addressing the controversial elements of the Internal Market Bill which enable the UK to override the Withdrawal Agreement, Mr Sharma said: “The reason we have taken powers to ensure that in the event we do not reach an agreement with our EU friends on how to implement the (Northern Ireland Protocol) is so we’re able to deliver on our promises in our manifesto and the command paper.

“This is a legal safety net that clarifies our position on the Northern Ireland Protocol for protecting our union, businesses and jobs.”

Shadow business secretary Ed Miliband said Labour supported the principle of the internal market, but opposed the “law-breaking” Bill.

He told the Commons: “On devolution, we on this side believe deeply in our Union but the strength of our Union relies on sharing power not centralising it, and this Bill does not learn that lesson.

Ed Miliband said Labour opposes the ‘law breaking’ bill (PA)

“It makes the choice to impose the rule that the lowest regulatory standard in one Parliament must be the standard for all without a proper voice for the devolved administrations.”

Mr Miliband said he fears the Bill will “strengthen the hand of those who want to break up the UK”.

He also said: “On international law, nobody should be in any doubt the damage already done by this Bill.

“This law-breaking Bill has been noticed around the world.”

Mr Miliband highlighted reservations from US president Donald Trump’s Northern Ireland envoy, Mick Mulvaney, adding: “When the Trump administration starts expressing concern about your adherence to international agreements and the rule of law, you know you are in trouble.

“That is how bad this Bill is.”

Earlier in the debate, SNP MP Mhairi Black (Paisley and Renfrewshire South) also said: “This Bill explicitly gives any minister of the Crown permission to run riot with the very assets of Scotland that our Scottish Parliament has protected.”

Independence, she said, “is the only option left for Scotland”, adding: “This is a union that England dominates. The only reason there isn’t an English Parliament is because the people in Westminster view this place as the English Parliament, and we can’t afford to be naive. The only way to protect our Parliament is to become independent.”

She added: “It took us 300 years to get our Scottish Parliament and 20 years for this place to put a bulldozer right through it.”

The Bill will undergo further scrutiny in the Lords at a later date.

Additional reporting by PA Media.


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