Internal Market Bill passes second reading despite controversy – so what happens next?

Tue 15 Sept 2020
Posted by: William Barns-Graham
Trade News

trade bill

The controversial Internal Market Bill passed its second reading last night (15 September) by a majority of 77, meaning the House of Commons agrees to it in principle.

However, with 30 senior Conservative MPs – including former prime minster Theresa May – abstaining, there are signs that the government still faces potential challenges through amendments to the bill.

The published draft of the legislation says government would be able to “modify and disapply” parts of the Withdrawal Agreement relating to the Northern Ireland Protocol.

The government admitted last week that the bill will breach international law if turned into law in its current wording.

Amendment showdown

The government could face a showdown with its own rebel MPs next week, when votes on proposed amendments are due to take place.

The most notable of these is one being tabled by former minister Bob Neill, which would give parliament the right to veto any attempts by government to override parts of the Withdrawal Agreement.

The bill is also expected to face a challenge in the House of Lords, with former Tory leader Michael Howard telling the Guardian he would be “very surprised” if it was passed in the upper chamber.

However, the government could pass the bill regardless of a rejection in the Lords under the Parliament Act.

No-deal impact

The controversy over the Internal Market Bill has soured negotiations for the future relationship between the EU and UK, with a no-deal outcome increasing in likelihood as a result.

According to a document leaked to the Guardian yesterday (14 September), new controls being introduced for goods movements between the UK and EU could lead to queus of up to 7,000 lorries in Kent.

A survey British International Freight Association (BIFA) members has also revealed a lack of industry preparedness for the changes.

The FT reports that two thirds of the customs agents polled said they were not ready for the extra paperwork that post-transition trade will bring.