Boris Johnson said Britain must reserve the right to override the Brexit deal in order to protect the country’s “economic and political integrity”.
The Prime Minister said legislation was needed to resolve “tensions”
He said it would ensure that the UK could not be “dissolved” by a foreign power and that the EU was acting “extremely” by threatening food exports.
Labor said the prime minister created the “chaos” by rejecting a deal he previously called a “triumph”.
The Internal Markets Act is expected to pass its first parliamentary test later when MPs vote on it at 10 p.m. CET, although many MPs have reservations that it gives Britain the power to violate international law.
A number of Conservative MPs have said they will not support the bill in its current form and some may abstain from registering their concerns.
The UK left the EU on January 31st after negotiating and signing the withdrawal agreement with the bloc.
An integral part of the agreement – which is now an international treaty – was the Northern Ireland Protocol, which is designed to prevent a hard border from returning to the island of Ireland.
The government’s proposed Internal Market Act would override this part of this agreement in relation to goods and allow the UK to amend or reinterpret the state aid rules for subsidies to businesses in Northern Ireland in the event of both sides that do not conflict agree on a future trade deal.
At the beginning of the five-hour debate, the Prime Minister said the bill should be “welcomed” by those who care about the “sovereignty and integrity of the UK”.
He said the UK had signed the withdrawal agreement, including the Northern Ireland Protocol, in “good faith”, believing it would make “easy” rules for intra-UK trade.
He said the “protective powers” in the bill were necessary to protect against the EU’s “proven willingness” to interpret aspects of the readmission agreement in “absurd” ways that were never intended.
“What we cannot tolerate now is a situation in which our EU colleagues seriously believe that they have the power to break our country,” he told MPs.
“We cannot have a situation where our country’s borders can be dictated by a foreign power or an international organization.”
He also suggested that the EU threatened not to allow the UK to export products of animal origin to the continent or to Northern Ireland and had “not taken this revolver off the table”.
He wanted to reassure MEPs that the UK would continue to work with the EU to resolve their differences with “common sense and goodwill” and that MEPs would get a vote before the reserve powers were ever invoked.
“I have absolutely no desire to use these measures. They are an insurance policy.”
However, former Labor leader Ed Miliband, who stood up for Sir Keir Starmer after the Labor leader was forced to self-isolate at home, said the “act of passing the law” would be in violation of international law.
He told MPs that the Prime Minister could “blame anyone” after working out and signing the Brexit deal himself.
“It’s his business, it’s his mess, it’s his failure,” he said. “For the first time in your life, it’s time to take responsibility and be ashamed,” he said. “Either he wasn’t directly with the country at all or he didn’t get it.”
He added, “This is not just legislative hooliganism on any issue, it is on the most sensitive issue of all.”
Conservative MP Sir Bob Neill said the government must “exhaust” all means available under the existing agreement to resolve their differences before taking a profound step.
The government’s actions are “unnecessarily provocative” for the ongoing trade negotiations and “unnecessarily undermine our reputation for upholding the rule of law”.
And the former Chancellor Sajid Javid has joined the ranks of potential rebels and has declared that he cannot understand why it is necessary to “preventively revoke” the withdrawal agreement signed with the EU.
“Violating international law is never a step that should be taken lightly,” he tweeted.
A senior government source told the BBC that “all options are on the table” regarding possible action against Tory MPs who do not support the bill.
Legislation setting out how trade between different nations of the UK will work after the UK leaves the single market on January 1 is likely to face greater difficulties in later stages, particularly in the House of Lords.
Ian Blackford of the SNP said the bill was the “greatest threat” to decentralized government in Scotland since the Scottish Parliament was established 20 years ago.
“We are discussing the details of a bill that this government casually and boldly admits to violate international and national law. This bill cynically uses the precious peace at the heart of the Good Friday Agreement as nothing more than a Brexit negotiating chip,” he said.
Five former prime ministers have raised concerns about the bill, including Boris Johnson’s predecessor Theresa May, who was absent from the debate on Monday during her visit to South Korea.
David Cameron said earlier Monday that “passing a parliamentary law and then violating an international treaty … should be the absolute last resort”.
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