In the House of Commons, MPs voted in favour of re-instating clauses to the bill after rejecting series of amendments by the House of Lords. The legislation – which contains sections to give ministers the power to break international law – aims to protect trade between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK if there is no formal trade deal with the EU.
MPs voted on a series of amendments tabled by Peers – the most significant being Clause 47 relating to customs arrangements and state aid in Northern Ireland.
It was passed by 357 to 268 – a majority of 89 votes in parliament.
A formal vote was not required to reinsert clauses 42, 43, 44, 45 and 46 – after they were previously removed by peers.
In another vote MPs rejected an amendment – by a majority of 94 – to make changes to the so-called common frameworks.
The Internal Market Bill will now return to the House of Lords for a second time.
The EU argues the bill undermines parts of the Northern Ireland protocol signed in the Brexit withdrawal agreement in January.
Under the terms of the bill it would give the UK Government the power to unilaterally determine which goods are at risk of entering the EU single market and therefore require export declarations.
Before the vote, the Government offered an olive branch to the EU and said it would be prepared to remove the clauses relating to Northern Ireland and state aid.
Earlier, Business minister Paul Scully explained the Government wants to retain these clauses in their current form in the bill until discussions with the EU “have successfully concluded”.
Speaking to MPs, he said: “Since these clauses were originally introduced, the UK and EU have worked constructively together through the Withdrawal Agreement Joint Committee discussions, which continue to progress and final decisions are expected in the coming days.
“I can confirm today that if the solutions being considered in those discussions are agreed, the UK Government would be prepared to remove clause 44 from this Bill, concerning export declarations.
“The UK Government would also be prepared to deactivate clauses 45 and 47, concerning state aid such that they could be used only when consisted with the United Kingdom’s rights and obligation under international law.”
He added: “But whilst we are hopeful of success, it is only prudent that until such a time as these discussions have successfully concluded, we retain these clauses in their current form as a fall-back option.”
The crucial vote came just hours after Boris Johnson and European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen agreed to meet in Brussels to try and salvage a post-Brexit trade deal.
The Prime Minister spoke with the EU chief over the telephone for 90 minutes this afternoon just 48 hours after they held talks for an hour on Saturday.
Both sides acknowledged outstanding remained over fisheries, governance and the so-called level playing field on trade.
UK chief negotiator David Frost had been locked in talks with his EU counterpart Michel Barnier on Monday in the Belgian capital.
They have been asked to prepare an overview of the differences ahead of the physical meeting of Mr Johnson and Ms Von der Leyen – which is expected to take place on Wednesday or Thursday.
In a joint statement, Mr Johnson and Ms von der Leyen said: “As agreed on Saturday, we took stock today of the ongoing negotiations.
“We agreed that the conditions for finalising an agreement are not there, due to the remaining significant differences on three critical issues: level playing field, governance and fisheries.
“We asked our chief negotiators and their teams to prepare an overview of the remaining differences to be discussed in a physical meeting in Brussels in the coming days.”
Published at Mon, 07 Dec 2020 21:38:00 +0000