UK's Johnson attacks European Union after winning vote to breach Brexit agreement

Johnson who has a majority of 80 in the lower house of parliament is facing a growing rebellion from lawmakers in his Conservative Party. — Reuters

The EU has rejected Johnson's version of events and threatened to take legal action against the British government if it did not drop the proposed bill by the end of September.

Some EU diplomats believe Johnson is playing a game of chicken, inviting the collapse of trade talks to either get the deal it wants or leave without a deal.

But EU leaders have dismissed this as "spin" and warned Johnson to uphold commitments he himself made in the Brexit treaty past year - demanding he withdraw the offending parts of the new bill by the end of September.

Sajid Javid, Conservative MP and the previous Chancellor of the Exchequer (finance minister, in other words), had also come out against the bill, saying in a tweet that he could not see why it would be necessary to break global law in the instance of the Internal Market Bill.

During a five-hour debate ahead of the vote on Monday evening, Johnson claimed the EU's current approach could lead to excessive checks and even tariffs on goods moving from Great Britain to Northern Ireland.

While the language of the bill does state it would "have effect notwithstanding any relevant worldwide or domestic law with which they may be incompatible or inconsistent", the prime minister has stated that an additional vote would be required before the law's powers could be invoked, apparently hoping to assure opponents and hold back a rebellion within his own party.

Sir Charles Walker, the vice-chairman of the powerful Tory backbench 1922 Committee, and Wakefield MP Imran Ahmad Khan - a member of last year's new intake of Conservative MPs - said they would not be supporting the Bill at second reading.

He said the legislation was necessary to prevent the European Union taking an "extreme and unreasonable" interpretation of the provisions in the Withdrawal Agreement relating to Northern Ireland.

"It will protect the territorial integrity of the United Kingdom and the peace in Northern Ireland, safeguarding trade and jobs across all four corners of the United Kingdom following the end of the transition period", he said. The EU has given the United Kingdom government until the end of this month to amend the bill and threatened legal action.

Labour said the PM was reneging on a deal he himself signed earlier this year, and on which Conservative MPs campaigned in the 2019 election, and was "trashing" the UK's reputation. That was agreed through the Northern Ireland protocol that could have resulted in an effective border down the Irish Sea if a trade deal was not reached.

But opposition Labour spokesman Ed Miliband ridiculed this suggestion, saying: "Either he wasn't straight with the country about the deal in the first place or he didn't understand it". This is his deal, it's his mess, it's his failure.

Senior conservative lawmaker Detlef Seif said the British plan to pass legislation that breaks its divorce treaty with the European Union, in a breach of worldwide law, undermined Britain's credibility as a negotiating partner. On Monday, Rehman Chisti, MP for Gillingham and Rainham, resigned as a government special envoy on what he called "a matter of principle".

Johnson could face more trouble however over four days of debate on the bill this week and next, with MPs seeking to amend the legislation. I'll very happily give way to him.



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