The UK House of Lords on Tuesday rejected parts of a bill that could have violated international law and breached the UK’s EU Withdrawal Agreement.
The bill, known as the United Kingdom Internal Market Bill, maps out the rules for the operation of the UK internal market once the Brexit transition period ends. As introduced in the House of Lords, the bill contained a controversial section that gave UK ministers full discretion to override parts of the Withdrawal Agreement—particularly the “Northern Ireland Protocol” section of the Agreement.
However, on Tuesday, the House of the Lords voted by a large margin to strip the bill of the clauses (Clause 42 and 44) that effectively gave ministers the power to override the Withdrawal Agreement.
This decision comes a few weeks after the EU formally launched an infringement procedure against the UK because of the bill. It also comes at a time when the EU and the UK are still negotiating a trade deal for the post-Brexit transition period.
The UK government, however, still stands firmly behind the bill as initially introduced.?It acknowledges that the bill as initially introduced breaches International law and the Withdrawal Agreement, yet maintains that it is necessary to preserve “the integrity of th[e] union.”
The UK government stated, to the consternation of members of the House of the Lords and many other British lawmakers, that it plans to restore the clauses the House of the Lords rejected once the bill returns to the House of Commons for approval.
“It is hard to imagine an act more damaging to the United Kingdom’s national interest than to place the UK beyond the pale of law-abiding nations, which is what the Government wishes to do. I strongly urge the Government to take the lifeline that the House of Lords is offering and accept that these law-breaking clauses were a mistake,” said Lord Falconer in response to the UK government’s intent to restore the clauses.
The amended bill is set to return to the House of Commons for approval later this month.