Mike Russell urges UK Government to drop ‘flawed’ Brexit Bill after crushing Lords defeat

The UK Government has been urged to drop the “deeply flawed” Internal Market Bill after suffering a crushing defeat in the Lords.

The UK Government has been urged to drop the “deeply flawed” Internal Market Bill
The UK Government has been urged to drop the “deeply flawed” Internal Market Bill

Last night peers voted 433 to 165 to pass an amendment removing measures that seek to “disapply” parts of the Northern Ireland protocol.

The UK Government has previously admitted the legislation breaches part of the Northern Ireland protocol and acknowledged the clauses would break international law in a “specific and limited way”.

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Now the Cabinet Secretary for the Constitution, Europe and External Affairs Michael Russell has once again urged Boris Johnson to reconsider the plans.

Mike Russell, MSP Cabinet Secretary for Government Business and Constitutional Relations, makes a ministerial statement. Picture: Fraser Bremner - WPA Pool/Getty Images

He said: “This vote is further confirmation that the UK Government must drop its deeply flawed Internal Market Bill. Not only is the Bill a flagrant breach of international law, it also fundamentally undermines devolution.

"The EU has made it clear the clauses which flout the Withdrawal Agreement are unacceptable.

"If the UK Government insists on reinstating them, they face condemning Scotland and the UK to a no-deal Brexit.

“But we should not forget that the Internal Market Bill is also an unprecedented threat to the Scottish Parliament’s powers and the UK’s constitutional rules and it should be rejected on those grounds as well.

“The UK Government must start listening to the growing clamour of dissent opposition and change course immediately given the fundamental damage the Bill is doing.”

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Former Conservative Party leader Lord Howard was among the 44 Tory peers who voted against the government late last night.

He led the calls for the prime minister to "think again", warning the UK Government was using the language of "law breakers" everywhere.

Despite the defeat, the UK Government has vowed to reinstate the clauses when the bill returns to the Commons in December.

A government spokesman said in a statement: "We will re-table these clauses when the bill returns to the Commons.

"We've been consistently clear that the clauses represent a legal safety net to protect the integrity of the UK's internal market and the huge gains of the peace process.

"We expect the House of Lords to recognise that we have an obligation to the people of Northern Ireland to make sure they continue to have unfettered access to the UK under all circumstances."

The statement comes despite US President-elect Joe Biden warning during his successful campaign against Donald Trump that a trade deal with the US was "contingent" on the prevention of a return to a hard border on the island of Ireland.

Mr Johnson, who is yet to secure a phone call with the incoming Democratic president, has insisted the Bill is designed to "protect and uphold the Good Friday Agreement and the peace process in Northern Ireland".

Mr Biden, who is proud of his Irish heritage, has warned the agreement cannot "become a casualty of Brexit".

Trade talks are ongoing between EU and UK officials in London as they try to reach an agreement over a future economic partnership.

EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier yesterday tweeted he was "happy to be back" in the capital, with the two teams "redoubling our efforts" for an agreement.

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