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Downing Street issued a stern warning to the House of Lords not to try to derail the Internal Market Bill, which was passed with a majority of 77 by MPs on Monday night. Despite the Bill passing its first hurdle in the Commons, some peers have hinted it will not get through the upper chamber in its current form after the Government admitted that it would breach international law. However, a Number 10 spokesman said ministers believed the Salisbury Convention should apply to the Bill, as this means the upper chamber should not vote down legislation to enforce government manifesto commitments.
The spokesperson said: “We would expect the Lords to abide by the Salisbury Convention.
“Guaranteeing the full economic benefit of leaving the EU to all parts of the United Kingdom and ensuring Northern Ireland’s businesses and producers enjoy unfettered access to the rest of the UK were clear Conservative manifesto commitments which this legislation delivers.”
Maddy Thimont-Jack, senior researcher on the Institute for Government’s Brexit team, believes the Government foresaw backlash over the Bill and quickly fast-tracked it through to avoid any growing rebellion.
She told Express.co.uk: “I think there is an aspect of trying to limit the size of the rebellion on the Tory backbenchers, but I also think the Government is keen to get the Bill to the Lords where they will expect more fireworks.
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“The content of this Bill is exactly the kind of issues peers really get their teeth into and we’ve already heard prominent Conservative peers publicly oppose the government’s approach.
“I imagine the Government is expecting a tough time of it and is keen to allow enough time for ping-pong between the two Houses so it can get the law on the statute book before January 1, 2021.”
Mr Johnson warned MPs the “protective” measures were necessary because the EU was now trying to “leverage” the Northern Ireland protocol in the talks on a post-Brexit free trade deal.
He said Brussels negotiators were threatening to ban the sale of UK agri-food products anywhere in the EU, creating an “instant and automatic” prohibition on the movement of such goods from Great Britain to Northern Ireland.
He said: “Absurd and self-defeating as that action would be even as we debate this matter, the EU still have not taken this revolver off the table.
Mr Johnson added some on the EU side even wanted to designate all goods moving from Britain to Northern Ireland as being “at risk” of entering the EU single market, making them liable to EU tariffs.
Ms Thimont-Jack added this was a risky move from Mr Johnson as the EU could view the “erosion of trust” as a reason to refuse to back down over the UK’s demands.
She said: “It does seem the government is hoping this brinkmanship with force a concession in the negotiations.
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“But there is a risk it will lead to the opposite.
“Member states already were reluctant to move from the EU’s initial, more hardline, position.
“This erosion of trust will make them even less likely to.”
But this comes after the EU is said to be planning to end its threat to block he UK from its list of countries that can export food agricultural products to the bloc.
A Brussels source told Express.co.uk: “We listed them within a matter of days during the no deal era when they provided us with the relevant guarantees.”
The Bill passed its second reading in the Commons on Monday evening by 340 votes to 263.
However, 30 Conservative MPs failed to register a vote despite a Government three-line whip, while Sir Roger Gale and Andrew Percy voted against the Bill.
The list of those who did not vote included former chancellor Sajid Javid and two former attorney generals, Geoffrey Cox and Jeremy Wright, who have all criticised the Bill.
Ministers are said to be braced for a further rebellion next week when MPs are due to vote on detailed amendments to the legislation.
They are expected to include one tabled by Sir Bob Neill, the chairman of the Commons Justice Committee, which would require a vote of Parliament before ministers could exercise their powers under the legislation.
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