Brexit: MPs approve UK Internal Market Bill to override EU Withdrawal Agreement

The Bill has cleared the House of Commons after MPs voted by 340 votes in favour to 256 against, a majority of 84.

Boris Johnson's controversial Brexit legislation, enabling the UK to break international law has cleared the House of Commons.

MPs voted in favour of the UK Internal Market Bill, which would give the government power to override the Withdrawal Agreement with the EU.

The Bill cleared the House of Commons after MPs voted by 340 votes in favour to 256 against, a majority of 84.

However the Bill must be approved by the House of Lords before it is signed into law as an Act.

The controversial bill has been a point of contention between EU and UK officials.

Alok Sharma said the government's approach will give businesses clarity. Credit: PA

Ministers have defended powers contained in the legislation, which gives them the opportunity to override the Brexit divorce deal.

They argue such powers are needed to protect the relationship between Great Britain and Northern Ireland, amid concerns in Westminster that Brussels could seek to disrupt food goods travelling from Britain to Northern Ireland as part of trade talks.

The Government was forced to compromise earlier in the Bill’s passage in the face of a Tory backbench rebellion, which resulted in changes to give MPs a vote before ministers can use the powers which would breach the Withdrawal Agreement brokered with Brussels last year.

The Bill also contains powers which enable Westminster to provide financial assistance for economic development, infrastructure, cultural activities and education purposes across the country.

Ed Miliband said Labour did not support the “law-breaking” Bill. Credit: PA

Opposition MPs have warned it will give the UK government the chance to stray into matters which are devolved in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, branding it an “attack” on devolution.

Speaking at third reading, Business Secretary Alok Sharma told MPs: “Our approach will give businesses the regulatory clarity and certainty they want.

“It will ensure the cost of doing business in the UK stays as low as possible, and it’ll do so without damaging and costly regulatory barriers emerging between the different parts of the United Kingdom.”

Mr Sharma accused SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford of wanting to be “shackled to the European Union forever”, to which Mr Blackford replied: “You’re talking nonsense.”

Addressing the controversial elements of the Internal Market Bill which enable the UK to override the Withdrawal Agreement, Mr Sharma said: “The reason we have taken powers to ensure that in the event we do not reach an agreement with our EU friends on how to implement the (Northern Ireland Protocol) is so we’re able to deliver on our promises in our manifesto and the command paper.

“This is a legal safety net that clarifies our position on the Northern Ireland Protocol for protecting our union, businesses and jobs.”

Shadow business secretary Ed Miliband said Labour supported the principle of the internal market, but opposed the “law-breaking” Bill.

He told the Commons: “On devolution, we on this side believe deeply in our Union but the strength of our Union relies on sharing power not centralising it, and this Bill does not learn that lesson.

“It makes the choice to impose the rule that the lowest regulatory standard in one Parliament must be the standard for all without a proper voice for the devolved administrations.”

Mr Miliband said he fears the Bill will “strengthen the hand of those who want to break up the UK”.

He also said: “On international law, nobody should be in any doubt the damage already done by this Bill.

“This law-breaking Bill has been noticed around the world.”

European Commission vice president Maros Sefcovic reiterated calls for ministers to scrap provisions in the legislation which could see the UK unilaterally tear up elements of the Brexit divorce deal on Monday.

But Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove, who co-chairs the committee with Mr Sefcovic, said the Government intended to continue with passage of the Bill.

He said the provisions relating to the Northern Ireland protocol in the agreement were a legal “safety net” to ensure the Government could continue to protect the peace process if talks on a post-Brexit free trade deal fail.

Brexit trade negotiations have made slow progress thus far, with the main sticking points including trading relations between Britain and Northern Ireland, along with areas such as fishing rights, state subsidies and the rights of citizens.

Despite this being the final round of organised talks, Number 10 expects informal discussions to continue ahead of the October 15-16 summit of European Union leaders which Boris Johnson has made his deadline for an agreement.