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15th September 2020, 20:39

Controversial Internal Market Bill passes second reading in Commons

A proposed law giving Boris Johnson's government the power to override parts of the Brexit agreement with the EU has passed its first hurdle in the Commons.

The Internal Market Bill would override part of the EU Withdrawal Agreement, breaking international law and jeopardising the chances of a future trade deal.

The Internal Market Bill would allow UK Government ministers to pass regulations on trade and state aid, even if these go against the Northern Ireland Protocol established by the Withdrawal Agreement.

It has been met with strong opposition from the EU, which said the Internal Market Bill would "constitute an extremely serious violation of the Withdrawal Agreement and of international law". It's also been condemned by five former UK Prime Ministers from both the Conservative and Labour parties.

Opening the debate on the bill in the Commons, current Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the bill was a "safety net" and a "very sensible measure".

However, standing in for Labour leader, Sir Keir Starmer, who is self-isolating after a member of his household developed possible COVID symptoms, shadow business secretary Ed Miliband pointed out that it was this government that signed the agreement.

Given the overwhelming majority won by the Conservatives at the election, MPs backed the Bill by 340 votes to 263. However, 30 Tory MPs abstained, and two voted against the bill. The bill passed to committee stage, and subsequent phases will see the discussion of an amendment by Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Gibraltar, Sir Bob Neill, aiming to ensure any usage of the controversial powers it grants ministers would first need parliamentary approval. If, as is likely, the bill is approved at its third reading, the Internal Market Bill will then pass to the House of Lords - where it is also likely to be met by further opposition.