Boris Johnson has opened talks with rebels from the ruling Conservative Party in the UK in a bid to win their support for his controversial plan to quash the Brexit deal he struck with the European Union.
The PM is facing a revolt from Tories dismayed by his proposal to violate international law by unilaterally rewriting parts of the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement he signed with the EU last year.
Johnson and other senior government officials held talks with one of the party’s main rebels – Bob Neill – on Monday, but officials are still ready to fight the proposals next week, people close to the party said. folder.
The Prime Minister’s Home Market Bill passed its first parliamentary hurdle on Monday, but Neill and a dozen other Tories are trying to change it to force the government to seek MPs’ approval before exercising the most controversial powers the law will give it.
No deal has yet been reached with the rebels, according to a person familiar with the situation, but Neill said Monday he wanted to give ministers a chance to address his concerns. A Downing Street official said the government was engaging with MPs in the normal way.
Bob Neill MP: Good luck amending Johnson’s Brexit Bill
Johnson’s plan to tear up parts of the EU Withdrawal Agreement threatens to shatter delicate negotiations over a future trade deal between the bloc and the UK Talks are already stalled, with some more three months to find a solution, and the EU has threatened legal action if Johnson does not back down. Failure to reach a deal by the end of the year would leave the UK facing trade disruption with its closest neighbor and chaos at its ports.
The row erupted after Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis told MPs last week that the Internal Market Bill would violate international law “in a limited and specific way”.
The government said the legislation is aimed at preventing the EU from erecting trade barriers between mainland Britain and Northern Ireland if no agreement can be reached on future arrangements for the region.
But Lewis’s comments sparked anger. Johnson’s five living predecessors as Prime Minister have publicly expressed concern about the damage his plan is doing to the UK’s international reputation as a reliable partner who upholds the rule of law.
A government adviser has resigned, and a cabinet minister has said he could do so if the law is ultimately broken in a way he deems unacceptable.
Further confusion followed on Tuesday when one of the UK’s top legal officials defended Johnson’s plans by insisting they did not violate international law – contradicting Lewis and the Prime Minister’s Office.
Richard Keen, the attorney general for Scotland, told the House of Lords that the bill deals with a “contingent situation” in which the European Union would violate its treaty obligations.
“The provisions of the bill are entirely limited in their intent and effect, and fall within the rule of law and the requirements of international law,” he said. “I certainly do not foresee that these provisions would be abused.”
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