Downing Street denies new Brexit bill is ‘power grab’
Downing Street denied the UK Internal Market Bill is a power grab and said devolved administrations will instead see a “power surge”.
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “Absolutely not. What the devolved administrations will enjoy is a power surge when the transition period ends in December.
“There will be no change to the powers the devolved administrations already have and the vast majority of powers with devolved competencies returning from Brussels will go straight to Holyrood, Stormont and Cardiff Bay.
“This will be a significant increase in the powers of the Scottish Parliament, the Welsh Parliament, and the Northern Ireland Assembly, which are already among the most powerful devolved administrations in the world.
“Where powers are coming back to the UK Government this is to protect the economy.”
PM to speak to Taoiseach Micheal Martin amid Good Friday Agreement concerns
Boris Johnson will speak to Taoiseach Micheal Martin later on Wednesday, Downing Street said, amid concerns for the Good Friday Agreement around the latest Brexit planning.
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “We are committed to the implementation to both the Withdrawal Agreement and the Northern Ireland Protocol.”
Downing Street welcomes request for EU meeting
Downing Street welcomed the request for an extraordinary joint committee meeting from the EU and said a date will be agreed.
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “We welcome the request from vice-president Sefcovic for an extraordinary joint committee meeting and we will be agreeing a date with the vice-president’s team as soon as we can.”
Withdrawal Agreement contains ‘ambiguities and in key areas there is a lack of clarity’ – Downing Street
Downing Street has sought to justify the Bill to override parts of Boris Johnson’s Withdrawal Agreement, saying the deal was written “at pace” in “the most challenging” circumstances.
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “The Withdrawal Agreement and the Northern Ireland Protocol aren’t like any other treaty.
“It was agreed at pace in the most challenging possible political circumstances to deliver on a clear political decision by the British people with the clear overriding purpose of protecting the special circumstances of Northern Ireland.
“It contains ambiguities and in key areas there is a lack of clarity. It was written on the assumption that subsequent agreements to clarify these aspects could be reached between us and the EU on the details and that may yet be possible.”
Labour looking at ‘potential amendments’ to Brexit legislation
Labour is looking at “potential amendments” to the UK Internal Markets Bill amid “serious concerns”, a spokesman for leader Sir Keir Starmer has said.
The spokesman said: “The Bill has just been published and we will publish a full response as soon as possible and look at any potential amendments.
“There are obviously serious concerns about the contents of the Bill, the implications on devolution and the implications on the Northern Ireland Protocol.”
The spokesman said Boris Johnson was “not very well briefed” over the allegation that Sir Keir was silent on Brexit after the Labour leader gave interviews on the subject on Tuesday.
UK urged to ‘uphold the rule of law’
Influential Irish-American US Congressman Richard Neal has urged the UK to “uphold the rule of law” and warned that any US-UK trade deal would be dependent on protecting the Good Friday Agreement.
Rep Neal, who chairs the country’s Ways and Means Committee which oversees trade deals, said in a statement: “The United States is a guarantor of that historic peace accord, which was approved by the people of Ireland, north and south, in an unprecedented referendum.”
He added: “Every political party on the island opposes a return of a hard border. I sincerely hope the British government upholds the rule of law and delivers on the commitments it made during Brexit negotiations, particularly in regard to Irish border protocols.”
Key EU figures have expressed concern after the UK government this afternoon published the Internal Market Bill that overrides parts of the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement
‘They are quite happy to use us as a pawn in the middle of the Brexit debate’ – Michelle O’Neill
Michelle O’Neill has accused Brandon Lewis of having a “brass neck” following his comments in the House of Commons.
“I think it demonstrates again that Brandon Lewis and the entire Tory Government do not care what happens to the people who live in the north of Ireland,” the Deputy First Minister said.
“They have demonstrated time and time again that they are quite happy to use us as a pawn in the middle of the Brexit debate.
“There was an international agreement painstakingly struck, and we got ourselves some protection in the form of the protocol and what Brandon Lewis openly said was, ‘but sure that doesn’t matter anymore we are going to override that’.
“It’s not acceptable to the EU side.
“I spoke to Simon Coveney this morning, he shares the view that it is not acceptable, that it won’t be tolerated.
“If they stand any chance of negotiating a future trade deal, who wants to do a deal with someone who reneges on a previous deals they have made?”
PM insists everybody must obey the law
Boris Johnson has insisted everybody must obey the law when challenged over his Government’s Brexit and coronavirus plans.
Speaking at Prime Minister’s Questions, Liberal Democrat Munira Wilson (Twickenham) said: “If ministers think it’s acceptable for this Government to not obey the law, how on Earth can the Prime Minister expect the public at home to do so?”
Mr Johnson replied: “We expect everybody in this country to obey the law.”
Brexit bill proposals are ‘nothing short of an attack on Scotland’s Parliament’ – Ian Blackford
SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford branded the UK Internal Market Bill proposals “nothing short of an attack on Scotland’s Parliament and an affront to the people of Scotland”.
He said: “This legislation breaks international law, but it also breaks domestic law. The Prime Minister and his friends… are creating a rogue state, one where the rule of law does not apply. Why does the PM think that he and his friends are above the law?
Mr Johnson replied: “This UK Internal Market Bill is about protecting jobs, protecting growth, ensuring the fluidity and safety of our UK internal market and prosperity throughout the UK and it should be welcomed, I believe, in Scotland, in Northern Ireland, in Wales and throughout the whole country.”
Mr Blackford said: “We saw the PM breaking the law last year with the prorogation of Parliament, we’ve seen the behaviour of Dominic Cummings and we know that this Government’s prepared to break its international obligations and what the Prime Minister said is complete rubbish and the Prime Minister knows this.”
David Lammy urges Robert Buckland to ‘protect the rule of law’
Shadow lord chancellor and justice secretary David Lammy has urged his opposite number Robert Buckland to “protect the rule of law” after the Government announced plans to override the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement in legislation.
In a letter shared on Twitter, Mr Lammy wrote: “Dear Robert, in your role as Lord Chancellor, you have a sworn duty to respect the rule of law. Maintaining the sanctity of the rule of law has been central to your position for more than 400 years.”
He continued: “What steps do you plan to take to protect the rule of law from attack from inside your own government? If you fail to prevent the government from breaking the rule of law, will you stand by your oath to respect the rule of law by breaking cabinet responsibility on this matter?”
‘Northern Ireland is too fragile and too important to be used as a pawn in the broader Brexit negotiations’
Ireland’s Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney said that Brexit is for real this time for traders and businesses.
“This time there is no extra time, there is no transition,” he said.
“We need a big national effort in the final three months to ensure no one is left behind. The key words are to, from and through.
“If you move things to the UK, if you buy from the UK and if you move things through the UK the status quo will not apply from January 1.
“We will continue to do everything we can to support Michel Barnier in his efforts to get everything in place in time.
“It must be consistent with the agreement already made.”
Mr Coveney added: “I would caution anyone who is thinking about playing politics with Northern Ireland on Brexit.
“Northern Ireland is too fragile and too important to be used as a pawn in the broader Brexit negotiations.”
Micheal Martin said that trust is “fundamental” in the conduct of negotiations.
He said he is to speak to the British Prime Minister Boris Johnson later today to raise the Irish Government’s “strong concerns” about comments made in the House of Commons on Tuesday.
‘Brexit has been and will continue to be bad for Ireland’ – Taoiseach Micheal Martin
Ireland’s Taoiseach Micheal Martin has said that Brexit has been and will continue to be bad for Ireland, Britain and the EU.
Announcing a range of business supports for Irish businesses, Mr Martin said the Government is aware of the risks to vulnerable sectors.
“The Government will ensure it has done its own preparations in the ports and airports,” Mr Martin added.
“Even with a (trade) agreement there will be substantial challenges for supply chains and trade flows and checks.
“The protocol in Northern Ireland will apply.
“It is important that meaningful negotiations can only proceed on the basis of mutual trust.”
Tanaiste Leo Varadkar has said that the Irish Government is appealing to businesses to take action and prepare for Brexit.
“You need to be prepared for the new normal and you need to be ready now,” Mr Varadkar added.
“We are making available a grant of 9,000 euros per employee hired to enable businesses to build their capacity and manage any custom changes.
“My message to business people is simple – I know you are under a lot of pressure, I know you are being pulled in many directions and you’ve had a tough year, but Brexit has not gone away and the next stage is happening.”
UK legislation a ‘full frontal assault on devolution’, Nicola Sturgeon insists
New legislation setting out trading arrangements within the UK after the Brexit transition period has been branded a “full frontal assault on devolution” by Nicola Sturgeon.
The Scottish First Minister spoke out against proposals in the UK Government’s Internal Market Bill – saying ministers in Wales had also voiced their concerns about it “stealing” powers from the devolved governments.
She spoke out as UK Government minsters insisted the new Bill would provide extra powers for the devolved governments in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
From January 1, when the UK’s transition period as it leaves the European Union comes to an end, powers will be returned from Brussels to the administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, the UK Government has stated.
But Ms Sturgeon insisted: “The Internal Market Bill that the UK Government will publish today is a full frontal assault on devolution.”
She tweeted: “At forthcoming @ScotParl elections, @theSNP will make case for independence. And more and more this is not about independence v the status quo of devolution. It’s about independence as the only way to protect the Scottish Parliament from being undermined and its powers eroded.
“And added to all of the above, this is a Bill that, by the government’s own admission, breaks international law. This UK gov is the most reckless (& to make it worse, incompetently so) and unprincipled in my lifetime. Scotland can do better and we will have that choice.”.
Breaking international law is necessary to preserve peace in Northern Ireland, Hancock says
Matt Hancock said breaking international law by overriding the Withdrawal Agreement is necessary to preserve peace in Northern Ireland if a trade deal with the EU is not brokered.
The Health Secretary told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “The decision we’ve made is to put the peace process first, first and foremost as our absolute top international obligation.
“We are also absolutely clear about if we don’t manage to achieve that (a deal), and I really hope that the Europeans will make the progress necessary in order to deliver it – it’s straightforward and available in my view – if not we absolutely have to choose and to govern is to choose and I choose peace in Northern Ireland.”
MEP ‘flabbergasted’ by plan to break international law over Brexit deal
A French MEP has said she was “flabbergasted” by the Government’s admission it could break international law over Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal.
Nathalie Loiseau told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “I’m flabbergasted by what I heard yesterday. The ink of the Withdrawal Agreement is still wet.
“We’re negotiating the future relationship and we hear that the British Government seems not to believe anymore in a rules-based order.
“This is of course a huge concern.
“And it creates questions and scepticism about how much you can trust your partner in negotiation for the future.
“You don’t break international commitments in specific and limited manners. Either you break them or you abide by them.
“Either you are legal or you are illegal.”
Senior Tory MP warns PM not to breach law over Brexit deal
A senior Tory MP has warned Boris Johnson not to breach international law over his Brexit deal, saying it would “go against everything we believe in”.
Chairman of the Commons defence committee Tobias Ellwood told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “As negotiations go down to the wire let’s not lose sight of who we are and what we stand for.
“This is about the rule of law and our resolve and commitment to uphold it. To unilaterally ignore any treaty in its obligations which we’ve signed and submitted to the United Nations would actually go against everything we believe in.”
Breaching international law over Brexit would mean the UK would “lose the moral high ground”, Mr Ellwood said.
He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “How can we look at countries such as China in the eye and complain about them breaching international obligations over Hong Kong, or indeed Russia over ballistic missiles, or indeed Iran over the nuclear deal if we go down this road?
“And also we speak of global Britain, how can we also convince other states to sign up to agreements in the future if they doubt our trust at this moment.
“Our soft power is absolutely critical, it’s based on trust, on transparency, but if we go down this route we will lose the moral high ground.
“There’s an awful lot of sabre rattling at that last minute but let’s stay focused on what we believe in and securing that deal. It was the Prime Minister that said that there would be a failure of statecraft if we didn’t secure a deal.
“Let’s hold our nerve at this difficult time but let’s also not forget what Britain stands for.”