European parliament leaders have vowed to block any future UK-EU trade deal if Boris Johnson goes ahead with a bill which would violate the Brexit withdrawal agreement, after the bloc’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier said it was increasing its planning for a no-deal scenario.
The prime minister sought to fend off a looming revolt, reportedly telling some 250 Tory MPs that his planned breach was “necessary to stop a foreign power from breaking up our country” but that there was “no time for questions”, after Tory rebels tabled an amendment that would give parliament a veto on his Internal Market Bill.
It comes as Ireland’s Europe minister said the move to renege on last year’s deal was a “unilateral provocative act” that was “uniquely unprecedented” in history.
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Boris Johnson rejects EU ultimatum, despite legal threat
A big deadline, high-stakes brinkmanship and a Brexit bill that threatens the future of the country. Make you nostalgic for 2019? No, me neither.
The EU has demanded the UK drops its bill to override parts of the withdrawal agreement “by the end of the month” or trade talks could collapse.
Following his “extraordinary” meeting with Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove, European Commission vice president Maros Sefcovic said the EU would not be “shy” of taking legal action against the government.
Gove said the government “would not and could not” change its mind.
The trade deal talks? Negotiators Michel Barnier and David Frost said the usual stuff at the end of the latest round on Thursday, but the override bill has soured any chance of progress there.
Germany’s ambassador to the UK, Andreas Michaelis, said: “In more than 30 years as a diplomat I have not experienced such a fast, intentional and profound deterioration of a negotiation.”
Trade talks to avert no-deal Brexit under threat as Gove says UK will not back down
Dozens of Tory MPs ready to rebel against new Brexit bill
The 2019 election was supposed to rid Boris Johnson of the troublesome breed of rebellious Tories, but up to 30 Conservative MPs are ready to vote against his Internal Market Bill, according to The Times.
One MP told Politico there could be a 40 to 50-strong rebellion brewing – enough to defeat the govermment.
Sir Bob Neil, the chair of the justice select committee who has emerged as the rebel leader, urged Boris Johnson and the government to think again: “For heaven’s sake, try and find some other way.”
Sir Bob has tabled an amendment that would block the government from overriding the withdrawal agreement without parliament’s support. Fellow Tory MPs Damian Green and Oliver Heald are among those backing the amendment.
There’s the potential for a Tory uprising in the Lords too. Lord Lamont, former Tory chancellor, said On Thursday: “The government are in a terrible mess ... In a way, this [bill] could take us back to square one.”
PM’s plan ‘act of self-arm’, says Gordon Brown
Boris Johnson’s stance on the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement is an “act of self harm”, Labour former prime minister Gordon Brown has said.
Brown told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “This is a huge act of self harm. We knew that there was a debate over fishing and over state aid, but then to explode the argument to breaking an international treaty is being condemned by so many people.”
“If I had done that when I was prime minister the Conservatives would have accused me of breaching the rule of law,” he added.
“They would have thrown everything at us and said that you cannot ignore an international treaty that you signed only a few weeks ago and you negotiated.”
Remarks from former PM come as Brexit trade talks hang in the balance
Brexiteers want to scrap the whole withdrawal agreement
Tory MP Steve Baker, a leading light of the Conservatives’ hardline European Research Group (ERG), said the government should consider scrapping the withdrawal agreement entirely.
The self-described “Brexit hardman” said: “I think we should now be willing to repudiate the whole treaty on the basis of the EU’s bad faith.
“Which in my mind is undoubted.”
PM’s move ‘unprecedented throughout history’ says Irish government
Ireland’s Europe Minister, Thomas Byrne, said the Irish government was “very, very concerned” by the UK government’s plan to override the key parts of the withdrawal agreement.
“This is uniquely unprecedented, in fact,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme. “We have never in recent history - or, maybe in ancient history dealing with other countries - seen such a renegement on an agreement less than one year after Boris Johnson negotiated it. And it is unacceptable.”
Byrne added: “It’s a totally unacceptable way to do business. This was a unilateral. provocative act.”
“It is completely wrong to say that this is to protect the Good Friday Agreement. In fact, the opposite is the case.
“What they propose to do is put at serious risk the basis of the peace on the island of Ireland. And the basis of our trade, and unfettered trade, cross border in goods which is absolutely essential for that peace.”
UK signs trade deal with Japan
Britain has signed its first post-Brexit trade deal with Japan worth an estimated £15bn, the international trade secretary Liz Truss has announced.
Truss said: “This is a great deal for Britain, going beyond EU-Japan in key areas like digital & data, financial services and food & drink.
“A British-shaped deal that delivers for the whole country.”
The latest breaking news, comment and features from The Independent.
‘Time to start living like a free people,’ says Tory MP on Covid rules
Boris Johnson is also facing revolt from some Tory backbenchers over new lockdown restrictions. Steve Baker MP has provocatively declared this morning: “It is time for us to actually start living like a free people.”
Baker told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “I think it is now time to say that this is not a fit legal environment for the British people.
“It’s time to move to a voluntary system - unless the government can demonstrate otherwise. And it is time for us to actually start living like a free people, not subjecting ourselves to constantly shifting legal requirements, which I think now no-one can fully understand.”
Senior Tories also want younger children to be exempt from the so-called “rule of six” in England, according The Daily Telegraph, while The Daily Mail claims health secretary Matt Hancock was the only cabinet minister to support the plan.
UK economy grew 6.6% in July
Some slightly encouraging news on the economy this morning. The UK’s GDP grew by 6.6 per cent in July, the Office for National Statistics has announced.
Although GDP rose for the third successive month, the country has regained only around half of the output lost during lockdown – leaving us substantially below pre-pandemic levels.
The economy is 11.7 per cent below the peak reached before the coronavirus pandemic began, the ONS said.
Output remains 12 per cent below pre-pandemic level as recovery slows down
‘Barbaric negotiating ploy’: International media responds to PM’s big Brexit move
Germany’s Der Spiegel newspaper has responded to the decision to tear up parts of the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement by stating: “A contract is a contract? Not for Boris Johnson.”
Noting that UK chief negotiator David Frost may call for more realism from the EU, the outlet says: “That’s funny. Because on the EU side, we have long been wondering how to stay realistic in the face of a negotiating partner who adjusts reality weekly.”
In France, Liberation sums up the “shocking” move by saying: “The democratic government of a country respected throughout the world for its legal rigour has proposed to include in its national legislation noncompliance with international law.”
The paper adds that the move is not surprising, coming from a PM who last year "tried to justify the unjustifiable when he illegally suspended parliament”, and who has “repeatedly shown that his reputation, and that of his country, do not bother him”.
The Netherlands’ newspaper NRC Handelsblad says the step is in line with Johnson last year demoting MPs who disagreed with him and proroguing parliament, other moves which came under the “beloved chaos theory” he uses to achieve his goals.
Spain’s El Pais said it is not yet clear whether the plan is “just another barbaric negotiating ploy”, but said it has “poisoned the already tense climate” of the talks.
Prisons to run out of space in three years, warn MPs
Prison could run out of space for new inmates within three years, according to a parliamentary report accusing the government of “staggering” failures.
MPs on the public accounts committee said almost two thirds of adult jails in England and Wales are already overcrowded and some high-security inmates were being left in low-security facilities as a result.
“Demand for prison places could outstrip supply by 2022-23,” said a report released on Friday.
“We are not convinced that the Ministry of Justice’s plans to create more capacity will allow it to match the expected increase in the prison population whilst keeping prisoners safe.”
Public Accounts Committee says high-risk inmates are being held in low-security jails as a result of overcrowding
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