UK parliament to debate bill dictating post-Brexit trade terms

The UK’s House of Commons is scheduled to debate the Internal Market Bill today, which affects the country’s position in

parliament

Photo: Reuters/ Gonzalo Fuentes

The UK’s House of Commons is scheduled to debate the Internal Market Bill today, which affects the country’s position in concurrent trade negotiations with the EU.

The bill would empower ministers to “disapply” or ignore clauses from the Withdrawal Agreement (signed with the EU last October and legislated by parliament last January) in order to smooth out potential trade barriers between Great Britain and Northern Ireland, the latter of which remains within the EU customs and regulatory jurisdiction. EU officials have criticised the proposal, claiming that it breaches the Withdrawal Agreement and hurts the UK’s credibility in trade negotiations. Conservative backbenchers and opposition MPs also announced their intention to vote down the bill.

While the government’s majority is large enough to prevent this outcome in the Commons, there is a serious likelihood that the House of Lords may delay or amend the bill as a bid to protect the UK’s international reputation for honouring treaty obligations.

Before any of this can occur, however, the EU and UK face a tight deadline for completing the post-Brexit trade deal. Prime Minister Boris Johnson hopes that the bill will force concessions from Brussels on fishing access and restrictions on state aid to industry. Yet it is expected that this move will only further entrench the negotiation stalemate and protract the brinkmanship until the last possible moment.

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