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MPs will scrutinise the UK Internal Market Bill tonight amid building opposition against the controversial plans. Today David Cameron became the fifth former prime minister to voice their concerns over the proposed legislation – which would see no new checks on goods moving from Northern Ireland to Great Britain. This, in turn, would mean increased checks on the border with the Republic of Ireland – something both the EU and UK previously agreed would not happen.
The bill has several stages to go before reaching a final vote.
But the second reading this evening is sure to result in a fierce Brexit showdown as critics go head-to-head with Boris Johnson’s Government.
Get the popcorn ready for the latest round of classic Brexit clashes as Tory rebels fight to be heard against a volley of speeches backing the government.
But while the bill has proved controversial, it may be that any rebellion will merely see rebels abstain from voting rather than vote against Mr Johnson at this point.
Any rebellion at this stage will likely be limited to a few abstentions.
Internal Market Bill timetable:
The second reading of the Internal Market Bill will begin in the House of Commons today 3.30pm.
Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove closes the debate and MPs will then vote tonight on the second reading – with the vote expected to take place as late as 10pm.
Following this, the bill will see further Commons debates on Tuesday and Wednesday.
And the debate will rage on next Monday and Tuesday before the final vote.
The full schedule is as follows:
- September 14: Second reading
- September 15: Committee of whole House day one
- September 16: Committee of whole House day two
- September 21: Committee of whole House day three
- September 22: Committee of whole House day four
The remaining stages are yet to be confirmed but the bill must pass both houses of Parliament for it to become law.
Given Mr Johnson’s vast majority, the vote could be an overwhelming success for Mr Johnson.
However critics are keen to disrupt the Prime Minister’s plans, with those opposed to the bill having already indicated they will be putting forward their own amendments to the proposals.
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What is the UK Internal Market Bill and why is it so controversial?
The Internal Market Bill seeks to rollback on some terms agreed in the Withdrawal Agreement – particularly those in relation to the Ireland/Northern Ireland border.
You can read the legislation in full here but essentially the bill gives ministers the power to break international law “in a limited and specific way” in their application of the Northern Ireland protocol.
The plans will have significant implications for devolution and intra-UK trade as well.
The draft legislation says: “Certain provisions to have effect notwithstanding inconsistency or incompatibility with international or other domestic law.”
The legislation makes clear that “all rights, powers, liabilities, obligations, restrictions, remedies and procedures which are, in accordance with section 7A of the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018” will be “recognised and available in domestic law”.
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Former attorney general Geoffrey Cox has claimed he “shall have no choice but to withhold [his] support for this bill” – but that’s not to say he’ll necessarily vote against the Government, but rather abstain tonight.
Speaking to Times Radio, he said: “I have spoken to the Prime Minister. We’ve had long discussions and I know the Prime Minister is giving very careful thought to these things.
“And I know the Government feels that it really has no choice, that if the actions of the EU are borne out…
“If the statements they appear to have made are fulfilled. it would place an enormously difficult problem in the way of the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland… it would amount to a demonstration of a want of good faith for which the Government should take action.
“It’s just the action it should take, in my view, shouldn’t be unlawful.”
While Home Office minister Kit Malthouse insisted he will vote for the UK Internal Market Bill – even if it breaks international law.
He told BBC Breakfast this morning: “I’ll be voting for the bill because I don’t believe that if that circumstance should arise, where food is prevented from moving from GB to Northern Ireland, that the Prime Minister has any choice but to take powers to allow Tesco to stock the shelves in Belfast.
“I will be voting for the bill this afternoon, yes.”
He added is necessary to keep food flowing between Britain and Northern Ireland, saying: “For me – I mean I’m not a lawyer – it looks fairly clear to me, which is we can’t allow a situation where GB cannot supply food into Northern Ireland.
“If we get to a situation where we are not recognised as a third country and it therefore becomes illegal to move food to Northern Ireland, what is the UK Prime Minister supposed to do?
“I think this is the solution that needs to be offered if we’re going to have resolution to that – Northern Ireland is unequivocally part of the UK customs territory, so the fact that is now being brought into question is a very difficult thing for us to face, very concerning but no doubt that will all be thrashed out this afternoon.”
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