A controversial Brexit bill that could rule out part of the Withdrawal Agreement signed with the EU has passed its final stages in the UK’s House of Commons after a compromise was reached with Conservative lawmakers.
Lawmakers endorsed the government’s UK Internal Market Bill on Tuesday evening, which will be re-elected next week before being examined by the House of Lords, the upper house of the British parliament.
A potential uprising by Tory lawmakers was avoided after the government promised the Commons it would have a vote before the new powers in the bill were used.
The law, which has led to protests in the EU and at home, could see the government renounce commitments relating to Northern Ireland signed less than a year ago.
Former British Prime Minister Theresa May repeated her criticism of the bill this week, warning that it would do “untold damage” to Britain and accusing Boris Johnson’s government of acting “reckless and irresponsible”.
About 30 Tory MPs abstained at the first parliamentary vote on the bill last week after a government minister admitted it would violate international law.
Brandon Lewis, Secretary of Northern Ireland, told lawmakers that the bill “does violate international law in very specific and limited ways”.
The law, which the government describes as a “safety net,” was also widely criticized by opposition lawmakers and the European Union, who threatened legal action if controversial portions of the bill were not changed or removed.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said last week that she was “deeply concerned,” tweeting that the move would “violate international law and destroy trust”.
The bill seeks to ensure a seamless flow of goods and services across the borders of the UK’s four nations, overriding provisions made for Northern Ireland negotiated and ratified in the binding Withdrawal Agreement signed with the EU.
Under the agreement, Northern Ireland is obliged to follow some EU rules after the end of the post-Brexit transition period, maintaining an open border between northern and southern Ireland. after the UK leaves the Single Market and the EU Customs Union.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the new law would protect the Good Friday Treaty, the peace deal signed in 1998 that ended the Troubles in Northern Ireland.
“This UK internal market bill is about protecting jobs, protecting growth, ensuring the smooth and safe operation of our UK internal market and prosperity across Great Britain,” added Johnson.
EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier came to London on Wednesday for informal discussions, ahead of official post-Brexit trade talks due to resume on September 28.
As EU ministers meet in Brussels on Tuesday, Germany’s Minister of State for Europe Michael Roth urged the British government to “stop the game”.
“We are very disappointed with the results of the negotiations so far. “The so-called internal market bill really worries us, because it violates the principles of the withdrawal agreement, and we cannot accept it at all,” he added.
Boris Johnson’s renegotiated EU divorce deal in October 2019 contributed to his re-election of his Conservative government, and paved the way for Britain to exit the bloc that was pending last January.
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