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Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson (REUTERS)
Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson (REUTERS)

UK PM seeks party backing for his controversial Brexit bill

  • The bill is set to be formally debated in the House of Commons for the first time on Monday and focuses on the Northern Ireland Protocol
  • Informal UK-EU talks are due to resume on Monday, with the next official round of talks

LONDON : UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has called on his Conservative Party MPs to back a controversial parliamentary bill that would override parts of the Withdrawal Agreement struck with the European Union, or the so-called Brexit divorce pact.

In a Zoom call with party members on Friday, he reportedly urged the members of parliament (MPs) not to return to the "miserable squabbling" over Europe and support his Internal Market Bill, which is intended to ensure no hiccups in Northern Ireland, the UK territory which shares a border with the EU member-state of Ireland.

The bill is set to be formally debated in the House of Commons for the first time on Monday and focuses on the Northern Ireland Protocol – the part of the Brexit divorce designed to prevent a hard border on the island of Ireland.

If it became law, it would give UK ministers powers to modify or "disapply" rules relating to the movement of goods between Britain and Northern Ireland that will come into force from January 2021, unless the UK and EU are able to strike a trade deal ahead of that.

Writing in 'The Telegraph', Johnson sought to explain his reasons for the bill and warned that the EU could threaten to blockade parts of the UK unless it is passed.

"We are now hearing that unless we agree to the EU’s terms, the EU will use an extreme interpretation of the Northern Ireland Protocol to impose a full-scale trade border down the Irish Sea," he said.

"We are being told that the EU will not only impose tariffs on goods moving from Great Britain (GB) to Northern Ireland (NI), but that they might actually stop the transport of food products from GB to NI.

"I have to say that we never seriously believed that the EU would be willing to use a treaty, negotiated in good faith, to blockade one part of the UK, to cut it off; or that they would actually threaten to destroy the economic and territorial integrity of the UK," Johnson said.

But many members of his own party and the Opposition have challenged the UK prime minister on his proposals, which are seen as a breach of international law. The European Union (EU) has called the move a serious breach of trust and threatened to take legal action if Johnson does not alter the bill by the end of the month.

The two sides have less than five weeks to agree a post-Brexit trade deal to come into effect at the end of the Brexit transition period in December. Johnson has set a October 15 deadline for the talks, after which he says he is prepared to "walk away".

Informal UK-EU talks are due to resume on Monday, with the next official round of talks – the ninth since March – starting in Brussels on September 28.

Earlier this week, at the end of the eighth round of talks between the negotiators from both sides, UK Brexit Chief Negotiator David Frost said the exchange was “useful" but that a number of challenging areas remain and the "divergences on some are still significant".

There are a number of sticking points in the talks, including the so-called "level playing field" criteria, fishing rights and the future role of the European Court of Justice.

Britain formally left the 27-member European economic bloc in January this year after a referendum in favour of the exit in June 2016.

The ongoing Brexit transition period means all EU rules apply until the end of December, before which both sides must agree on a new arrangement or end up with a no-deal Brexit and resort to trading on broad World Trade Organisation (WTO) norms.

This story has been published from a wire agency feed without modifications to the text.

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