Boris Johnson was branded a “liar” by the SNP’s Westminster leader Ian Blackford, who accused “the prime minister his friends, a parcel of rogues” of an alleged power grab on the devolved administrations.
The stormy exchange at PMQs came in response to the publication of Mr Johnson’s UK Internal Market Bill, which would override elements of his Brexit deal with Brussels and which Northern Ireland secretary Brandon Lewis admitted would breach international law in a “very specific and limited way”.
The prime minister also faced a grilling from Sir Keir Starmer over what he said were “glaring holes” in the government’s coronavirus testing regime, as Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle reprimanded Matt Hancock for failing to deliver a statement to the Commons on new coronavirus restrictions, which were briefed to the media instead.
Meanwhile the government laid down its new coronavirus rules - limiting gatherings to no more than six people from different households - while the PM was urged by MPs to begin his inquest into the government’s handling of the virus in January.
Good morning and welcome to the latest politics updates from The Independent.
Boris Johnson heads for bust-up with Scotland and Wales over internal market bill
Boris Johnson is on collision course for a new bust-up with the UK’s devolved administrations, with the publication of legislation returning swathes of powers over Scottish and Welsh issues from Brussels to Westminster after Brexit, political editor Andrew Woodcock reports.
Nicola Sturgeon’s Scottish government today said it would be impossible to recommend that Holyrood give its consent to the UK Internal Markets Bill, which it said would threaten its ability to act independently of London on key issues like minimum unit pricing for alcohol.
Welsh government ministerJeremy Miles denounced the legislation as “an attack on democracy and an affront to the people of Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland” which risked sacrificing the future of the Union.
The bill follows the publication in the summer of a white paper proposing new mechanisms to preserve the all-UK internal market following the end of the Brexit transition period on 31 December.
Its provisions for UK ministers to override elements of the Brexit withdrawal agreement relating to Northern Ireland have already provoked a furious row, with the prime minister standing accused of tearing up an international treaty which he negotiated, signed and rushed through parliament with scant time for scrutiny.
But now its proposals for ministers in Westminster to take control of the design and implementation of replacements for a range of EU spending programmes in areas like infrastructure, economic development, culture, sport, educational activities and training have sparked fury in Edinburgh.
Nicola Sturgeon’s Scottish government says it will recommend rejection of post-Brexit legislation
Northern Ireland secretary provokes outrage by admitting bill will breach international law
Brandon Lewis provoked outrage when he confirmed to MPs on Tuesday that the legislation would breach international law in a "very specific and limited way".
The Northern Ireland secretary said the powers the government was taking would enable ministers to "dis-apply" the EU legal concept of "direct effect" - which requires the enforcement of EU law - in "certain, very tightly defined circumstances".
His admission led to Conservative former prime minister, Theresa May, warning the government was in danger of losing the trust of other countries that it would honour its international agreements, while Labour described the admission as "absolutely astonishing".
Sir Keir Starmer urged Mr Johnson not to "reopen old wounds" and to instead "get a deal, move on and concentrate on defeating (coronavirus)".
Health secretary ‘comfortable’ with fact UK willing to break international law
Matt Hancock has said he is "comfortable" with the fact the UK is willing to break international law on the EU withdrawal agreement.
When asked by Times Radio if he was comfortable with a minister saying the UK was willing to break international law, the health secretary replied: "I am."
He continued: "The primary international obligation around this issue is to protect the peace process in Northern Ireland and I very much hope we conclude a deal before the end of the transition period.
"I think that we will and it is in everybody's interest to do so as we did last time, but I also understand why ministers have chosen to prioritise at the absolute top of that the importance of protecting the peace process in Northern Ireland."
Senior Tory MP warns PM not to breach international law over Brexit deal
A senior Tory MP has warned Boris Johnson not to breach international law over his Brexit deal, saying it would "go against everything we believe in".
Chairman of the Commons defence committee Tobias Ellwood told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "As negotiations go down to the wire let's not lose sight of who we are and what we stand for.
"This is about the rule of law and our resolve and commitment to uphold it. To unilaterally ignore any treaty in its obligations which we've signed and submitted to the United Nations would actually go against everything we believe in."
Matt Hancock 'comfortable' with government breaking international law in 'limited and specific way'
Matt Hancock has said he is comfortable with a minister outlining the UK's willingness to break international law over plans to unilaterally overwrite part of the Brexit withdrawal agreement.
Speaking after cabinet minister Brandon Lewis conceded the proposals unveiled this week were unlawful in a “very specific and limited way” – provoking outrage – the health secretary defended the government’s approach.
His comments also came after the government’s top lawyer resigned his post over reports No 10 would backtrack on the Brexit agreement in the event of talks over a future trading agreement with Brussels collapsing.
Pressed on whether he was comfortable with a minister saying the UK is willing to break international law, Mr Hancock replied: “I am.”
He told Times Radio: “The primary international obligation around this issue is to protect the peace process in Northern Ireland and I very much hope that we conclude a deal before the end of the transition period and I think that we will and it’s in everybody’s interest to do so as we did last time.
“But I also understand why ministers have chosen to prioritise at the absolute top of that the importance of protecting the peace process in Northern Ireland.
Health secretary also insists public should follow new coronavirus laws on social gatherings
French MEP ‘flabbergasted’ by government saying it could break international law
A French MEP has said she was "flabbergasted" by the government's admission it could break international law over Boris Johnson's Brexit deal.
Nathalie Loiseau told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "I'm flabbergasted by what I heard yesterday. The ink of the Withdrawal Agreement is still wet.
"We're negotiating the future relationship and we hear that the British Government seems not to believe anymore in a rules-based order.
"This is of course a huge concern.
"And it creates questions and scepticism about how much you can trust your partner in negotiation for the future.
"You don't break international commitments in specific and limited manners. Either you break them or you abide by them.
"Either you are legal or you are illegal."
Matt Hancock says breaking international law is necessary to preserve peace in Northern Ireland
Matt Hancock said breaking international law by overriding the Withdrawal Agreement is necessary to preserve peace in Northern Ireland if a trade deal with the EU is not brokered.
The health secretary told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "The decision we've made is to put the peace process first, first and foremost as our absolute top international obligation.
"We are also absolutely clear about if we don't manage to achieve that (a deal), and I really hope that the Europeans will make the progress necessary in order to deliver it - it's straightforward and available in my view - if not we absolutely have to choose and to govern is to choose and I choose peace in Northern Ireland."
Brexit continues to be bad for Ireland, Britain and EU, taoiseach says
Ireland's taoiseach, Micheal Martin, has said that Brexit has been and will continue to be bad for Ireland, Britain and the EU.
Announcing a range of business supports for Irish businesses, Mr Martin said the government is aware of the risks to vulnerable sectors.
"The government will ensure it has done its own preparations in the ports and airports," Mr Martin added.
"Even with a (trade) agreement there will be substantial challenges for supply chains and trade flows and checks.
"The protocol in Northern Ireland will apply.
"It is important that meaningful negotiations can only proceed on the basis of mutual trust."
Health secretary refuses to rule out possibility of second lockdown
Matt Hancock has refused to rule out a second lockdown, despite assurances by the prime minister.
Speaking to LBC, the health secretary said: "Our goal is to avoid having to do anything more drastic by people following the rules."
But he would not rule out a return to lockdown, saying: "I wouldn't make a vow like that.
"You wouldn't expect me to - I am the health secretary in the middle of a pandemic where we are trying to keep the country safe."
But he added he "hoped" lockdown could be avoided, saying: "The number of cases is largely driven by people socialising."
Register for free to continue reading
Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism
By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists
Already have an account? sign in
Join our new commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies