LONDON (Reuters) – British Prime Minister Boris Johnson slammed the European Union on Monday when he won the initial approval of a plan to break the Brexit treaty, saying the move was necessary because the bloc had refused to take one. revolver from the table ”In trade negotiations.
Johnson won the so-called parliamentary vote at second reading on the Internal Market Bill 340 to 263. A devastating amendment was defeated shortly before, though more will follow as he faces a growing revolt in his party.
The EU says Johnson’s bill will collapse trade negotiations and drive the UK towards a messy Brexit, while former British leaders have warned that breaking the law is a step too far that undermines the country’s image.
Johnson said, however, that it was important to counter “absurd” threats from Brussels, including that London put trade barriers between Britain and Northern Ireland and impose a food blockade – steps that he said threatened the UK’s unity.
“The EU has still not taken this revolver off the table,” Johnson told parliament before the vote. “What we can not do now is tolerate a situation where our EU colleagues seriously believe they have the power to break up our country.”
The EU has demanded that Britain scrap the most important parts of the bill by the end of September and that if not, there will be no trade agreement by the end of the year to cover everything from car parts to food.
To back up its message, the European Commission has delayed a decisive decision to allow London to continue clearing euro transactions for EU-based customers, a derivatives source told Reuters.
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Johnson made it clear he would go ahead with the bill he threw as a defensive insurance policy aimed at preventing a foreign power from dividing the UK by using Northern Ireland as leverage.
However, many legislators are concerned about such an explicit offer to violate international law. All five of Britain’s living former prime ministers have expressed concern over his plan.
“I understand how some people will feel uneasy about the use of these forces, and I share that sentiment myself,” Johnson said. “They are an insurance policy and if we reach an agreement with our European friends, which I still believe is possible, they will never be invoked.”
But some EU diplomats believe London is playing a chicken game and invite the collapse of trade talks to either get the deal it wants or leave without a deal.
Now that the bill has passed its second reading, it will face another four days of debate on it in small print – a stage where lawmakers can try to insert revisions that could change the whole meaning of the bill or even kill it.
The biggest battlefield is likely to be an attempt by Bob Neill, a Conservative lawmaker, to amend the bill to ensure any attempt to use the clauses that violate the Brexit divorce agreement gets prior approval from Parliament.
Writing by Guy Faulconbridge and Michael Holden; further reporting from Huw Jones, Kate Holton, Estelle Shirbon, Alistair Smout and Andrew MacAskill; Clip by Andrew Cawthorne, Jon Boyle, Alex Richardson and Cynthia Osterman