Boris Johnson hits back at EU for ‘extreme and unreasonable’ threats to UK
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The Prime Minister made the remarks to MPs ahead of their vote on the Internal Market Bill. The proposed legislation has sparked outrage from the EU and Tory rebels as it breaks an international agreement between the UK and the trading bloc. The bill passed through its second round of voting in the Commons, with 340 MPs voting in favour to 263 against.
Opening the Commons debate on the controversial legislation, Mr Johnson claimed the EU was going to ”extreme and unreasonable lengths” opposing the bill.
The Prime Minister accused the EU of using Northern Ireland to “exert leverage against the UK”.
Speaking to MPs, he stressed “we cannot have a situation where the very boundaries of our country could be dictated by a foreign power or international organisation”.
Mr Johnson has described the Internal Market Bill as a “safety net” protecting Northern Ireland from a food “blockade”.
Mr Johnson went onto suggest the EU’s interpretation of the original Withdrawal Agreement go “well beyond common sense”.
He added: “To take the most glaring example the EU has said that if we fail to reach an agreement to their satisfaction they might very well refuse to list the UK’s food and agricultural products for sale anywhere in the EU.
“And it gets even worse. Because under this protocol that decision would create an instant and automatic prohibition on the transfer of our animal products from Great Britain to Northern Ireland.
“Our interlocutors on the other side are holding out the possibility of blockading food and agriculture transports within our own country.”
Under the Withdrawal Agreement, approved by Mr Johnson last year, Northern Ireland retains EU single market regulations on goods and remains an entry point for the EU Customs Union.
Government sources close to the Brexit trade talks have claimed Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief negotiator, has “explicitly” threatened to withdraw the UK’s status for food exports if no deal was reached.
If the EU revokes the UK’s “third party” status for food exports, it would mean an effective “blockade” on exporting to Northern Ireland.
The EU has denied this is the case, and French MEP Nathalie Loiseau added: “It’s one more example of disinformation and fake news related to Brexit.”
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During the Commons debate on the bill, former Labour leader Ed Miliband savaged the proposed legislation and the Prime Minister.
Filling in for Sir Keir Starmer, Mr Miliband claimed the “very act of passing the law” would constitute a breach of international law.
He added: “This is not just legislative hooliganism on any issue, it is on the most sensitive issue of all.”
Mr Miliband also told the Prime Minister the Withdrawal Agreement is “his mess” and “failure”, and urged him to “take responsibility”.
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The Bill passed through Commons with a majority of 77 MPs last night.
The EU has warned the UK if the Internal Market Bill passes through parliament, then the bloc will walk away from any future trade deals.
Ursula von Der Leyen, President of the European Commission, said on Twitter: “I trust the British Government to implement the Withdrawal Agreement, an obligation under international law and prerequisite for any future partnership.
“Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland is essential to protect peace and stability on the island and the integrity of the Single Market.”
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