UK defiant even after House of Lords rejects Brexit bill

Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected to contest the lords' decision

The government has suffered a heavy defeat in the House of Lords over its controversial Brexit legislation.

The House of Lords voted 433 to 165 to remove the clause which gives the government the power to breach the treaty brokered with the European Union past year.

Labour's leader in the House of Lords, Baroness Angela Smith, said: "I am sure some in government will initially react with bravado and try to dismiss tonight's historic votes in the Lords".

Ms McDonald said Mr Biden's election was "good for Ireland in many ways", and that the president-elect had "made it clear" that there would be no trade deal with Britain unless the Good Friday Agreement is safeguarded in all of its parts.

The Internal Market Bill is created to enable goods and services to flow freely across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland after 1 January - when the post-Brexit transition period runs out.

"We've been consistently clear that the clauses represent a legal safety net to protect the integrity of the UK's internal market and the huge gains of the peace process".

"We expect the House of Lords to recognize that we have an obligation to the people of Northern Ireland to make sure they continue to have unfettered access to the United Kingdom under all circumstances", Johnson's office said in the statement.

The Government immediately responded following the result on Monday night, by insisting it would not back down. It contains clauses ministers say are needed to protect Northern Ireland's delicate status as part of the United Kingdom, but would also break worldwide law in a "specific and limited" way.

"Any Lords amendments will be considered when they return to the House of Commons but we do consider these clauses to be a vital safety net".

Turning up the pressure on the EU, Prime Minister Boris Johnson is threatening to table new legislation and override requirements for new Northern Ireland customs arrangements, meant to prevent the return of checks at the Irish border from next year.

Mr Biden warned during his successful campaign against Donald Trump that a trade deal with the U.S. is "contingent" on the prevention of a return to a hard border on the island of Ireland.

Questioned on whether the government would continue to attempt to push through the legislation without accepting the removal of the clauses, Johnson's spokesman told reporters that other countries must "recognize" that the government "cannot allow the peace process or the UK's internal market to inadvertently be compromised by unintended consequences" of the Withdrawal Agreement.

Ministers insisted the clauses were needed to ensure goods can be sent to Northern Ireland in the event of a no-deal Brexit, after claiming the European Union could have imposed a blockade on the nation.

"This draft bill is, by its very nature, a breach of the obligation of good faith laid down in the Withdrawal Agreement".

"We are a top second-rank power but, over the next half century - however well we perform - our small size and population makes it likely we will be passed by the growth of other, far larger, countries", the ex-prime minister asserted.

Mr Johnson last night said he remains determined to pass it in its current form and claimed the objective of the bill is to "protect and uphold the Good Friday Agreement".

Brussels' negotiator Michel Barnier is holding talks in London this week with his counterpart Lord Frost. He tweeted that he was "happy to be back" in the capital, with the two teams "redoubling our efforts" for a deal.

He listed the three major sticking points - governance, the level playing field and fishing policies - as the three "keys to unlock a deal".

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