Boris Johnson has partially climbed down on his controversial new Brexit bill in the face of a Tory rebellion.
Downing Street offered a compromise to try and win over the dozens of Conservatives who abstained or voted against the draft legislation that would override the withdrawal agreement – breaking international law.
The prime minister has promised to give MPs another vote before any of the powers are used, as long as they pass the Internal Market Bill when it is due to complete its Commons journey next week.
A statement was released “following talks” between Number 10 and disgruntled backbenchers, agreeing that the amendment will provide a “clearer, more explicit democratic mandate for the use of these powers”.
And ministers have agreed to another amendment that “sets clear limits on the scope and timeliness of judicial review” of the bill.
But it came too late to stop the resignation of a justice minister, Lord Keen, who is the third government figure to quit over the issue – after the head of the government legal department and a special envoy.
And Labour’s shadow attorney general, Lord Falconer, said the concession “doesn’t remedy the breaches of international law which arise from the bill”, adding: “Honestly it’s getting worse not better.”
Asked if he thought the EU was, he said “I don’t believe that” – flatly contradicting Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis, who’s answer to the same question earlier was “yes”.
Before the U-turn, Mr Johnson said his approach was only “protection” against “extreme interpretations” of the part of the divorce deal concerning Northern Ireland.
He was supported by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who said during a news conference: “I trust the UK… I have great confidence that they will get this right in a way that treats everyone fairly.”
But Mr Johnson had been scorned by senior US Democrats threatening to block a US trade deal if the UK did break international law.
Meanwhile, the EU had threatened legal action and said it could threaten ongoing trade talks with the bloc.
Mr Johnson sought to play down the prospect there will be no-deal to replace the existing trading arrangements that will expire at the end of 2020 when the transition period runs out.
He said that was “not what this country wants” and added: “I have every hope and expectation that that won’t be the outcome.”
© 2020 Sky UK
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