PM Johnson’s treaty-breaking Brexit laws face defeat in parliament

Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson gestures as he speaks during a virtual news conference on the ongoing situation with the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), at Downing Street, London, Britain

Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected to suffer a heavy defeat in parliament’s upper chamber on Monday over laws allowing him to breach Britain’s EU exit treaty – a proposal which has been criticised by U.S. president elect Joe Biden.

The Internal Market Bill is designed to protect trade between Britain four nations after Brexit. It contains clauses ministers say are needed to protect Northern Ireland, but would also break international law in a “specific and limited” way.

The House of Lords will vote around 1900 GMT on whether to strip those clauses from the bill. Johnson’s government is widely expected to lose, but is not backing down and may add the clauses back in next month and try to force them into law.

The publication of the bill in September provoked criticism with some saying it would wreck Britain’s international standing. Biden tweeted on Sept. 16 that anything which risked peace in Northern Ireland would threaten Anglo-American trade.

Many saw the bill as a negotiating gambit to win concessions from the EU in wider negotiations on a trade deal. Brussels has launched legal action against Britain over the proposals.

Johnson says the clauses are there to act as a safety net in case ongoing negotiations with the EU fail to work out how goods can flow between Britain, the British province of Northern Ireland, and across the unmanned border with EU member Ireland.

Monday’s vote leaves Johnson with a decision: accept the defeat and let the rest of the bill become law, or fight it by adding the clauses back in when the bill returns to the lower house of parliament next month.

“Our position remains that the clauses are a vital safety net,” Johnson’s spokesman told reporters.

However, the clauses may no longer be needed if talks with the EU on how to make the Irish border work are successful.

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