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The European Union reacted with fury at news of Boris Johnson tabling a set of changes to the Internal Market Bill, with Michel Barnier threatening the UK with legal action should the Brexit deal be breached. The British Government on Thursday rejected calls to stand down and withdraw the proposed amendments, with Brussels now ordering ambassadors to prepare for a fight. Political editor Gary Gibbon noted a memo had been issued to diplomatic representatives across the bloc warning the UK’s behaviour could soon trigger a legal challenge.
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The Channel 4 News editor said: “We’ve got hold of a document that was sent from the European Union to EU ambassadors.
“This is showing how the whole EU machinery of warfare is being geared up ready to take on Britain if the EU believes Britain has defied that divorce agreement.
“It’s saying they’re ready to do that pretty much immediately. Now you sense the EU gear up the machinery but also wait and see what exactly Britain does.”
The Government is planning to rush the bill through the Commons in a bid for a speedier implementation but the Prime Minister could yet face challenges to his plans from within the UK.
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Mr Gibbon continued: “In the first instance, with indication we’ve had of that is the timetable for that controversial bill.
“The Government intends to rush out through the House of Commons next week.
“There are signs that it’ll win the first vote three but you can’t be sure – the numbers aren’t there yet for a rebellion – that there won’t be key amendments that they could lose.”
Conservative MP Sir Bob Neill, who pushed Northern Ireland Secretary into admitting the proposed changes would partially breach international law, announced plans to table an amendment to the bill to introduce a “parliamentary lock”.
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Speaking to Times Radio, Sir Bob said: “We are not natural rebels. We’ve all served as ministers, we know that this is a serious job, and we do our best to take the job seriously. So we don’t do anything like this lightly.
“So I hope it’s at least an indication as a Government that really, you need to think very hard and carefully about going down this route. For heaven’s sake, try and find some other way.”
Sir Bernard Jenkin MP also urged Mr Johnson to be “more mindful” about the threat his bill poses to Britain’s reputation when it comes to trade.
The Tory backbencher, who chairs the eurosceptic European Research Group, had previously urged the Prime Minister to “repudiate” the withdrawal agreement signed with Brussels.
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Sir Bernard said the Prime Minister would need to be careful with the “reputational damage” that comes with “playing such evidently hardball when there’s really no consensus for the country to go about deliberately breaking international agreements.”
The Government has defended its decision, insisting the UK needed to go ahead with the changes to the agreement to safeguard the internal market of the UK.
A spokesman for the Prime Minister said: “We’ve set out the clear reasons why we have to take these steps.
“We can’t allow the peace process of the UK’s internal market to be inadvertently compromised by the unintended consequences of the protocol.”
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