(Bloomberg) – The UK’s House of Lords has rejected the government’s plans to violate international Brexit law, shifting the blame to Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who pledged to push the legislation forward.
Peers voted on Monday to remove the most controversial parts of the Home Market bill, which gives ministers the power to unilaterally rewrite parts of Johnson’s withdrawal agreement with the European Union.
The legislation prompted the EU to take legal action just as the two sides are stuck in negotiations to secure a trade and security deal. But the prime minister has shown no sign of backing down on the plan, which the government has admitted would violate international law in “specific and limited” ways.
“How can we blame other countries – Russia, China, Iran – if their behavior becomes reprehensible when we ourselves have so little respect for the treaties we sign? Michael Howard, who led Johnson’s Conservative Party, asked the Lords. “What kind of precedent is the government setting?”
Peers voted 433 to 165 and then 407 to 148 to remove clauses that would allow ministers to redraw parts of the Withdrawal Agreement.
Johnson has argued that the measures are necessary to uphold the integrity of the UK’s internal market and have the potential to reverse changes to the bill when it returns to the House of Commons. The unelected upper house can only delay legislation, not block it.
The bill would give ministers the power, if no trade deal is reached, to remove tariffs on goods traveling from the mainland to Northern Ireland, upsetting Britain’s delicate compromise and the EU in negotiations to leave the bloc.
Johnson then agreed to levy tariffs on goods entering Northern Ireland that risked being moved south and into the EU as a price to avoid customs checks at the border with the republic.
Cabinet Minister Nicholas True said the clauses provided a “safety net” for the government and insisted it was committed to the Good Friday deal, which ended the conflict in Ireland from North, and don’t want to see a hard border with Ireland. .
“The rule of law is a fundamental part of our constitution, as is the principle of parliamentary sovereignty,” True said in the House of Lords. “It is permissible for any government in the pursuit of the national interest to ask Parliament to legislate to authorize its action in a manner which would be legal in domestic law even if it is illegal in international law.”
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