Bill outlining internal UK trade model post-transition is challenged in the Lords

Wed 28 Oct 2020
Posted by: Noelle McElhatton
Trade News

The Internal Market Bill, the legislation that sets out how trade within the UK will operate after the country leaves the EU’s single market on 31 December, is set to be blocked by the House of Lords.

The Lords are expected to overwhelmingly vote in favour of removing six clauses from the legislation which government admits breaches international law. 

The clauses give ministers the power to rewrite elements of the Withdrawal Agreement with the EU relating to the Northern Ireland Protocol.

The vote could take place around mid-November during the final stages of negotiations on a post-Brexit trade deal with the UK and just after the presidential election in the US, according to the FT

Early test for PM

If Joe Biden wins the US presidency on 3 November, the Lords vote could give Prime Minister Boris Johnson an early test of relations with the 46th US president.

Biden has said that the Internal Market Bill would undermine the Good Friday Agreement and that he would not sign a trade deal with the UK under these circumstances.

Peers have already signalled they are unlikely to support the bill, with a comprehensive vote on 20 October for a motion regretting that the internal market bill would “undermine the rule of law and damage the reputation of the United Kingdom”.

The IMB vote could coincide with the final stages of the talks to hammer out a trade deal, leading to further potential tension between the EU and UK if Johnson tries to reinstate the controversial clauses.

The European Commission has already started legal proceedings against the UK for breaching “good faith” provisions in the treaty with the bill.

Crucial stage for talks

Talks themselves continue to hang in the balance, according to EU council president Charles Michel, who told the Guardian that the next two weeks will be crucial. 

EU chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, is expected to stay with his team in Westminster until Thursday, after which the negotiations are due to resume in the Belgian capital.

EU sources have suggested that mid-November is now the absolute deadline for a deal in order for there to be time for parliamentary ratification on both sides of the Channel.