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The House of Lords is expected to vote down the UK Internal Market Bill this afternoon, sending the controversial legislation back to the House of Commons. Peers are expected to vote on an amendment calling for the removal of measures the Government has admitted would give it powers to break international law in a “very specific and limited way”.
Peers are concerned the bill could override clauses in the Withdrawal Agreement relating to Northern Ireland – something US President-Elect Joe Biden has warned would scupper US trade talks.
Whitehall sources have dismissed claims No10 could avoid a clash with the White House by abandoning the legislation if a trade deal is brokered with the EU during negotiations this week.
They told Express.co.uk: “We are committed to bringing forward the UK Internal Market Bill.
“We need to be prepared and maintain our internal market ensuring certainty for businesses and consumers across the UK.”
Referring to potential hurdles in bringing forward the Bill, including the House of Lords, a senior Government source added: “Annoying barriers will be dealt with as the Government needs to keep working on this crucial piece of legislation.”
Environment Secretary George Eustice also warned Peers this morning the Government would reinstate controversial clauses which enable ministers to break international laws if they tried to strip them out.
Mr Eustice said: “The UK Internal Market Bill is not about undermining the Belfast Agreement, it’s about standing behind it, making sure that it works and looking after the interests of Northern Ireland, making sure the peace and stability that’s been hard-won there can carry on.
“All of that work is being done and because that work is being done there will be no need for checks on the Northern Ireland border.”
The Bill will ensure the UK has stable internal trade after the end of the transition period on December 31st.
The legislation will also establish an independent monitoring body, the Office for the Internal Market (OIM), aimed at supporting the smooth running of trade within the UK.
The body will sit within the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) and provide independent, technical advice to Parliament and the devolved administrations on regulation which may damage the internal market.
Mr Biden has also previously warned the UK over the draft legislation, saying it could threaten the Good Friday Agreement.
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Mr Biden, who is of Irish heritage, warned the Good Friday Agreement cannot be “a casualty of Brexit” and said a UK-US trade deal would be dependent on the peace terms being upheld.
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer also stressed Downing Street should scrap the controversial legislation if he wants to develop a world-leading alliance with the incoming Biden administration.
Sir Keir said this morning: “He, like governments across the world, will take a dim view if our Prime Minister ploughs ahead with proposals to undermine that agreement.
“If the Government is serious about a reset in its relationship with the United States, then it should take an early first step and drop these proposals.”
During a committee stage debate on the Internal Market Bill in the Lords last week, concerns were also raised devolved nations were being left out of the Bill.
Lord Mackay of Clashfern, a former Tory Lord Chancellor said that while the UK Parliament had the legislative competence to regulate the internal market, the devolved administrations also had a “fundamental interest” in it.
Lord Mackay said: “It is wise to give them a voice in the way that it is exercised” urging consultations with the devolved administrations through the joint ministerial committee.”
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