Britain's Parliament Votes to 'Break International Law' on Brexit

Parliamentarians in the U.K. have voted in favor of the controversial Internal Market Bill, sections of which would give the British government powers to overrule parts of the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement made with the European Union.

Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis has admitted that it would break international law but in a "specific and limited way." Prime Minister Boris Johnson opened the debate at 4.30 p.m. time and it is expected to continue until 10 p.m., with Cabinet Minister Michael Gove closing the debate before a vote.

"We must now take a package of protective measures in this bill," Johnson told the House of Commons. "Every good is at risk, therefore, libel to tariffs. It is unreasonable and clearly against the spirit of this protocol."

Johnson said that not taking his amendments would amount to allowing the EU to decide on Britain's borders rather than Britain itself. He also asked for "reasonable and common sense" and still hoped to achieve that "whatever the provocation" from the EU.

"What this bill is simply seeking to do is to ensure, to protect this country against the EU's willingness to use this carefully balanced protocol in ways it was never intended."

It passed through the House Of Commons with a majority of 77. The ruling Conservative Party has an 80-seat majority—but a number of Conservative MPs and even former prime ministers have expressed reservations about the amendments.

Boris Johnson
Boris Johnson is keen to move EU negotiations forward House of Commons

David Cameron said he has "misgivings" about the post-Brexit bill and breaking the treaty should only be done as a last resort. This follows former Conservative prime ministers Theresa May and Sir John Major condemning the plan. Labour former PMs Tony Blair and Gordon Brown have also expressed concerns, accounting for all living former prime ministers.

Former Chancellor Sajid Javid said: "It is not clear to me why it is necessary for the U.K. to break international law. I am regretfully unable to support the U.K. Internal Market Bill unamended."

It is not clear to me why it is necessary for the UK to break international law. I am regretfully unable to support the UK Internal Market Bill unamended.

— Sajid Javid (@sajidjavid) September 14, 2020

Even though the bill passed this vote, there will be further debates in the House of Lords at a later date. This is Britain's "upper house" of parliament, tasked with checking and challenging the work of the House of Commons.

The bill being discussed and voted upon gives ministers powers to regulate state aid and develop their own customs procedures for trade from Northern Ireland to Great Britain and, according to the Institute for Government, "would allow ministers to make regulations inconsistent with the UK's obligations under the Withdrawal Agreement."