Bill to rewrite Brexit deal passes first major hurdle

rime Minister Boris Johnson attends a virtual press conference at Downing Street on September 9, 2020 in London, England | WPA Pool photo by Stefan Rousseau/Getty Images

Bill to rewrite Brexit deal passes first major hurdle

Boris Johnson’s contentious bill, which breaks international law, still faces further potential amendments.


9/15/20, 1:20 AM CET

Updated 9/15/20, 1:22 AM CET

LONDON — A controversial bill that would rewrite elements of the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement passed its first parliamentary hurdle in the U.K. House of Commons Monday, despite a small Conservative rebellion.

Sections of the Internal Market Bill will override crucial aspects of the agreement with Brussels on Northern Ireland and state aid. Cabinet Minister Brandon Lewis admitted last week that the proposals break international law. The government has justified the legislation as essential to ensuring unfettered trade between the four nations of the U.K. But the plans have also sparked outrage from the European Union.

A small group of big names in Boris Johnson’s Conservative Party from previous governments, as well as rebellious new MPs and backbench misfits, refused to support the bill, citing concerns about breaking international law. Most in the group chose to abstain rather than risk the wrath of the prime minister’s administration, which had been reportedly considering sanctioning MPs who voted against the bill by removing their party whips, effectively expelling them from the party.

Former Chancellor Sajid Javid and ex-legal chief Geoffrey Cox were among those to say beforehand that they could not support the unamended legislation.

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