House of Lords inflict ANOTHER defeat on Boris Johnson’s Brexit blueprint proposals

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The vote came as the House of Lords continued their legislative tussle with the Commons – known as parliamentary ping-pong – over the controversial UK Internal Market Bill. MPs have already rejected a series of changes made by the upper chamber but the peers have pressed them to think again.

We want this to be a UK internal market

Lord Hope

In the latest show of defiance, peers voted by 320 to 215 in favour of a renewed call to give the devolved administrations a key role in the co-ordination of the single market through so-called common frameworks, which manage the extent of divergence across policy areas.

Critics fear such a process could be over-ruled by the Bill with rules imposed centrally by the Westminster government.

But in the latest twist to the Brexit saga, peers will also be asked by the Government to again strip out law-breaking powers that would enable ministers to override parts of the Brexit divorce deal – known as the Withdrawal Agreement – brokered with Brussels last year.

This is despite them being restored by the Commons earlier this week.

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Boris Johnson subsequently dropped the controversial plans after the UK and EU reached an agreement on the implementation of the divorce deal.

Although separate from the deadlocked post-Brexit trade deal talks, it could improve relations between the two negotiating teams.

But peers are still bitterly opposed to other aspects of the Bill, particularly around what they see as the centralisation of power in London.

Independent crossbencher Lord Hope of Craighead said: “We want this to be a UK internal market.

“That means it needs to suit the needs and aspirations of all parts of the UK, which may differ greatly from one part to the other.

“It is not about creating barriers. It is about allowing for policy divergence in ways that are found by agreement to be consistent with the internal market.”

Cabinet Office minister Lord True warned there were “significant drawbacks” to the fresh attempt to amend the Bill, which he warned could create yet more business uncertainty.

Labour frontbencher Baroness Hayter of Kentish Town said: “We thought that this Bill would respect the devolution realities whilst helping to ensure the UK market to prosper for the sake of business, consumers, workers, our agriculture and the environment.”

But she said the Government had instead put in the legislation market access rules that “trumped rather than solidified the common frameworks programme”, which had been “built on consensus rather than top down diktat”.

She said: “The amendments build on the devolution settlements and would support and strengthen the Union as well as creating what we all want – a successful growing market, which is in the interest of all our citizens.”

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Democratic Unionist Lord Dodds of Duncairn said the Northern Ireland Protocol created differences within the internal market with economic and constitutional implications.

He said it was unacceptable for many in Northern Ireland to have border restrictions or tariffs imposed between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK.

Lord Dodd said some matters had been resolved by the Government’s actions but others had been “put on hold” and it would be important to see how things worked out in practice.

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