The Week

How Boris Johnson headed off a Brexit Rebellion

The Week logo The Week 17/09/2020 12:45:03 Aaron Drapkin
Boris Johnson wearing a suit and tie standing in front of a building © Provided by The Week

Boris Johnson likely breathed a sigh of relief on Monday evening, after his highly controversial bill that would allow the government to override certain parts of the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement passed through its first reading in the Commons.

MPs backed the UK Internal Market Bill by 340 votes to 263.

The legislation attracted major criticism in the week leading up to the vote, The Guardian says, which intensified after Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis' admitted to the house last Tuesday that the powers granted to the government if enacted, would constitute a breach international law.

The PM, on the other hand, claim they would "protect this country against the EU's proven willingness to use this delicately balanced protocol in ways it was never intended", dubbing it a "legal safety net". 

The proposal, which led to the resignation of the UK's top legal civil servant Jonathan Jones, also failed to secure backing from several senior Conservative MPs including former chancellor Sajid Javid and ex-attorney general Sir Geoffrey Cox.

According to The BBC, 30 abstained in total, with a further two voted breaking ranks to vote against a bill.

"I think that this is damaging our international reputation for honest and straight-dealing at a time when we are about to embark on a series of trade negotiations," said Sir Roger Gale, a Tory MP who voted against the bill. "I took a view that you fight this tooth and nail at every step."

The PM is not out of the woods just yet, however, with more votes and potential revolts still to come. Chair of the Justice Select Committee Bob Neill, himself a Conservative, reached a private deal with the government to table an amendment that will, in effect, force the PM to defer to a Commons vote if the government wants to use the powers enshrined in the bill.

"He made the point that we need to show that we are operating in a constructive spirit" Michael Gove commented, admitting that the Bromley and Chiselhurst MP was "on to something".  

MPs will vote on the amendment, agreed upon in order to reduce the chances of further rebellion, next week, The Telegraph says. 

Johnson's comfortable 77 seat buffer from the first vote will give the government hope that the subsequent ones follow suit, as they also look to put forward their own amendment which looks to limit the time and scope the judiciary would be granted to receive the bill. 

Over in Brussels, reaction has been mixed. One EU source told The FT that Brussels would like Johnson to remove all the offending powers from the bill, not "put them in an 'emergency use only box that's MPs can unseal at a moment's notice".

Others see it differently. "It is still in every EU nation's interest to find an agreement," another official revealed to Politico's London Playbook, suggesting their negotiating team would be willing to "close one eye" in order to keep the prospect of a deal at the very least on the table.

Johnson, who is also fighting off a rebellion against his new Covid-19 restrictions, has vowed a trade deal will need to be reached with the EU by October 15th or the UK will pull out of talks. 

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17. syyskuuta 2020 15:45:03 Categories: The Week

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