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Brexit: Boris Johnson partially climbs down on international law-breaking bill in face of Tory rebellion

·5-min read

<p>Downing Street offered a compromise to try and win over the dozens of Conservatives who <strong><a href="https://news.sky.com/story/boris-johnsons-internal-market-bill-to-override-parts-of-brexit-deal-clears-first-commons-hurdle-12071843" target="_blank">abstained or voted against the draft legislation</a></strong> that would override the withdrawal agreement - breaking international law.</p><p>The prime minister has promised to give MPs another vote before any of the powers are used, as long as they pass the <strong><a href="https://news.sky.com/story/controversial-internal-market-bill-breaks-international-law-government-admits-12065832" target="_blank">Internal Market Bill</a></strong> when it is due to complete its Commons journey next week.</p><p>A statement was released "following talks" between Number 10 and disgruntled backbenchers, agreeing that the amendment will provide a "clearer, more explicit democratic mandate for the use of these powers".</p><p>And ministers have agreed to another amendment that "sets clear limits on the scope and timeliness of judicial review" of the bill.</p><p>But it came too late to stop the resignation of a justice minister, <a href="https://news.sky.com/story/brexit-pm-unable-to-say-if-minister-has-quit-amid-legislation-row-12073379" target="_blank"><strong>Lord Keen</strong></a>, who is the third government figure to quit over the issue - after the head of the government legal department and a special envoy.</p><p>And Labour's shadow attorney general, Lord Falconer, said the concession "doesn't remedy the breaches of international law which arise from the bill", adding: "Honestly it's getting worse not better."</p> <p>Earlier, Mr Johnson accused Brussels of not acting in "good faith" during trade negotiations.</p><p>Asked if he thought the EU was, he said "I don't believe that" - flatly contradicting Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis, whose answer to the same question earlier was "yes".</p> <p>Before the U-turn, Mr Johnson said his approach was only "protection" against "extreme interpretations" of the part of the divorce deal concerning Northern Ireland.</p><p>He was supported by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who said during a news conference: "I trust the UK... I have great confidence that they will get this right in a way that treats everyone fairly."</p><p>But Mr Johnson had been scorned by senior US Democrats threatening to block a US trade deal if the UK did break international law.</p><p>Presidential candidate Joe Biden tweeted on Wednesday night: "We can't allow the Good Friday Agreement that brought peace to Northern Ireland to become a casualty of Brexit.</p><p>"Any trade deal between the US and UK must be contingent upon respect for the agreement and preventing the return of a hard border. Period."</p> <p>Following a meeting with Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said: "The Good Friday Agreement is the bedrock of peace in Northern Ireland and a beacon of hope for peace-loving people throughout the whole world.</p><p>"Whatever form it takes, Brexit cannot be allowed to imperil the Good Friday Agreement - the stability brought by the seamless border between the Irish Republic and Northern Ireland.</p><p>"In our meeting today with the foreign secretary, [Ways And Means Committee] chairman Richie Neal and I welcomed his assurances but reiterated the same message that we delivered to the leaders of the UK in London last year: if the UK violates its international agreements and Brexit undermines the Good Friday accord, there will be absolutely no chance of a US-UK trade agreement passing the Congress.</p><p>"The Good Friday Agreement is valued by the American people and will continue to be proudly defended in the United States Congress."</p><p>Meanwhile, the EU had threatened legal action and said it could threaten ongoing trade talks with the bloc.</p> <p>Mr Johnson sought to play down the prospect there will be no-deal to replace the existing trading arrangements that will expire at the end of 2020 when the transition period runs out.</p><p>He said that was "not what this country wants" and added: "I have every hope and expectation that that won't be the outcome."</p><p>Brussels has not yet responded to the latest move by Downing Street.</p><p><strong>Analysis: This move won't totally quell disharmony with EU</strong><br /><strong>By Adam Parsons, Europe correspondent</strong></p><p><em>The EU has been vociferous in its anger about the Internal Market Bill. This concession may mollify that slightly, but the disharmony won't go away.</em></p><p><em>The withdrawal agreement is seen as an absolutely fundamental document and any threat to it will continue to set off some very loud alarm bells. </em></p><p><em>The prime minister commands such a large parliamentary majority that some in Brussels think this safeguard is, to an extent meaningless - that if he calls a vote, he'll win it.</em></p><p><em>The flip side is that Brussels diplomats can now see that their fears and uncertainty are, to an extent, being mirrored in Westminster. </em></p><p><em>But until details are clear - particularly about the movement of goods - then this will remain a very contentious point. Trust in the UK is running low.</em></p>