MPs have given their latest support to the government’s plans to ignore parts of its Brexit deal with the EU.
Amid fears that the move would violate international law, ministers agreed to give parliament a voice before using the powers that would have been granted to it by the internal market bill.
The legislation, passed to the House of Commons with 340 votes to 256, will now pass to the House of Lords.
The government says it will help protect the UK̵
But Labor, Liberal Democrats, the SNP and the EU argue that allowing the government to cancel parts of a treaty signed by the EU and the UK could damage the country’s international reputation and reputation.
The UK’s five former prime ministers – Sir John Major, Tony Blair, Gordon Brown, David Cameron and Theresa May – have spoken out against the bill.
Tuesday’s parliamentary debate came as the EU and the UK began a ninth – and final – round of scheduled talks aimed at securing a trade deal.
The post-Brexit transition period, in which the UK has abided by EU trade rules and remained within the customs union and single market, runs out at the end of the year.
If the parties fail to reach an agreement, the UK would trade with the EU after the one on the World Trade Organization rules.
This would mean tariffs on most of the goods UK businesses send to the EU, while the UK could also charge tariffs on EU goods.
The Internal Market Bill is designed to allow goods and services to move freely in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland after 1 January.
It gives the government the power to modify aspects of the EU Withdrawal Agreement, a legally binding agreement governing the terms of Brexit entered into earlier this year.
What is the Internal Market Bill?
The bill sets out the rules for the functioning of the UK’s internal market – trade between England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland – after the Brexit transition period ends in January.
- No new controls on goods in transit from Northern Ireland to Great Britain
- Giving UK ministers the power to change or “disapply” the rules relating to the movement of goods which will take effect on January 1st if the UK and the EU are unable to reach an alternative deal through a trade agreement
- Powers to cancel previously agreed state aid obligations – government support for business
Ministers say the bill would provide a “safety net” in case the EU interprets the agreement, particularly the section on Northern Ireland, in an “extreme and unreasonable” way. The section – known as the protocol – is designed to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland.
Labor, SNP and Liberal Democrats opposed the bill, while the EU asked the British government to remove “controversial parties” by Wednesday.
To the Commons, Secretary of Affairs Alok Sharma said the legislation will protect the “shared prosperity” of the nations of the United Kingdom, adding: “It shows that, as a union, our country is greater than the sum of its parts.”
For Labor, shadow business secretary Ed Miliband said it was “unprecedented” to “break” a treaty signed by the UK and the EU, and that the government’s stance was “noticed around the world”.
Ian Blackford, the Westminster leader of the SNP, said ministers had “arrogantly arrogant” despite opposition to the bill in devolved nations.
The Democratic Unionist Party has supported the government, which already has a majority of municipalities of nearly 80.
No Conservative MP voted against the bill in its final round – and although 21, including Mrs May, did not vote, that does not necessarily mean they abstained.