Bill to override parts of Brexit deal clears first Commons hurdle

Boris Johnson's controversial plan to override key elements of the Brexit deal he signed with Brussels has cleared its first Commons hurdle despite deep misgivings by some senior Tories.

MPs voted to give the UK Internal Market Bill a second reading by 340 to 263 - a Government majority of 77.

Two Tory MPs - Sir Roger Gale and Andrew Percy - voted against the Bill, while 30 did not cast a vote although some may have been "paired" with opposition MPs.

The Government tally was bolstered by the support of seven DUP MPs.

Meanwile, Alliance and SDLP MPs voted against the bill.

Boris Johnson said the legislation was necessary to prevent the EU taking an "extreme and unreasonable" interpretation of the provisions in the Withdrawal Agreement relating to NI.

He said some in Brussels were now threatening to block UK agrifood exports to the EU and to insist on tariffs on all goods moving to Northern Ireland from the rest of the UK.

DUP chief whip Sammy Wilson said he believes the Government was “fulfilling in part its obligations to the people of Northern Ireland”.

He said: “That’s why we’ll be supporting it tonight”.

In a statement, Sinn Féin MP Chris Hazzard said the plans "represent a direct attack on the political institutions of the Good Friday Agreement".

He added: "We need to see the EU and the Irish government standing up to maintain the Withdrawal Agreement and Irish Protocol, our peace agreements and our political institutions."

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood said: "This may all turn out to be a dead cat, but let me tell this Government very clearly - more and more people every single day are saying to me, people you wouldn't even expect, that this union is very close to becoming a dead duck."

Alliance MP Stephen Farry said any border on the island of Ireland would create "fresh hostility".

He said: "The protocol is, in effect, the bare minimum to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland."

Mr Farry added: "It is pragmatically easier to manage an interface down the Irish Sea than it is across the land border. 

“We're talking about the difference between seven air and sea crossings versus 270 land crossings."

MPs will begin detailed line-by-line scrutiny of the Bill on Tuesday, with votes expected next week on amendments to the Northern Ireland provisions which some Conservatives may back.


INTERNAL MARKET BILL (Second Reading)

FOR: 340

  • Con: 328

  • DUP: 7

  • Ind: 1

AGAINST: 263

  • Lab: 195

  • SNP: 47

  • LD: 11

  • Con: 2

  • PC: 2

  • SDLP: 2

  • Green: 1

  • Ind: 1

  • All: 1