MPs vote to reinstate controversial sections of internal market bill

Elliot Chappell
© UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor

Ed Miliband has described the row over the internal market bill clauses as “calamitous, embarrassing and toxic” as MPs this evening voted to reinstate the controversial sections of the legislation.

The Shadow Business Secretary this evening slammed the government’s insistence on reinserting the clauses, which seek to allow the government to override parts of the withdrawal agreement signed with the EU and break international law.

The internal market bill passed its third reading in the Commons in September. The government then suffered a large defeat in the House of Lords last month as peers amended the bill to reject the controversial clauses.

But following a Commons debate tonight, clauses 42, 43, 44, 45 and 46 were reinstated without a vote. These relate to the ability of ministers to override parts of the departure agreement agreed between Westminster and Brussels.

357 MPs voted to reinsert into the legislation clause 47, which provides for the UK government to deviate from international law. 268 voted against, including the three Tory MPs Roger Gale, Simon Hoare and Stephen McPartland.

Conservative MPs Karen Bradley, Richard Holden, Julian Smith, Tom Tugendhat, Graham Brady, Theresa May, John Stevenson, Charles Walker, Geoffrey Cox, Caroline Nokes, Rishi Sunak and Jeremy Wright had no vote recorded on the division.

The Shadow Business Secretary explained to MPs that the legislation had been “absolutely savaged” in the House of Lords and it was no surprise the “beginnings of the climbdown” were now happening.

The votes this evening took place after Boris Johnson earlier today offered to drop the controversial clauses from the bill, at a later date, in an effort to break the deadlock in the ongoing trade negotiations with the EU.

Miliband told the Commons this evening: “Three months of posturing, undermining our reputation in the world and today, an hour before the debate begins, we see some preparations maybe for the brakes being applied before we go over the cliff…

“If there is one thing this whole sorry saga has shown the world beyond any doubt, is that with this government their word is not their bond.

“They cannot be trusted because they are willing to rip up international agreements they made less than a year ago.”

He highlighted that the measures within the bill had been opposed by figures across the political spectrum, from Tory grandees such as Michael Howard and William Hague to the archbishop of Canterbury and US President-elect Joe Biden.

The comments from Miliband came amid the stalling Brexit negotiations, with the European Council set to hold its final summit of the year on Thursday at which it hopes to sign off a post-Brexit trade deal between the UK and the EU.

Labour slammed the government over its failure to secure a post-Brexit trade deal during an urgent parliamentary question earlier today, reminding the minister that the whole country is waiting for the deal promised during the general election.

The Prime Minister spoke with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen over the phone this afternoon. The pair issued the following joint statement: “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.”

Responding to the statement this evening, shadow minister for the Cabinet Office Rachel Reeves said: “Day after day we see this government failing to deliver their promises to the British people and failing to get the deal they promised done.

“Securing a deal is critical to the British national interest for jobs and security. Even at this 11th hour, we urge both sides to get on with reaching an agreement. We can then focus on the job at hand, which is securing the economy and rebuilding our country from the pandemic.”

As MPs tonight voted to reject the changes made by the peers to the internal market bill last month, the legislation will now proceed back to the upper chamber for the Lords to consider whether to reinstate the amendments.

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