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UK to start legislating against Brexit deal within three weeks

UK to start legislating against Brexit deal within three weeks
The British flag flies from a tourist souvenir stall on the bank of the River Thames in view of the Houses of Parliament in London on Wednesday, 30 October 2019. (Photo: Luke MacGregor/Bloomberg)

The UK aims to introduce its controversial bill to override parts of the Brexit deal it negotiated with the European Union within the next three weeks, Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis has signalled. The government plans to proceed with the legislation in parallel to talks with the EU over the trading arrangements in Northern Ireland, a move that has escalated tensions with the bloc and raised the prospect of a trade war.

Parliament is not sitting next week and officials in charge of legislation are eyeing the fortnight following June 6. There is then a six-week window for the bill to pass the lower House of Commons before Parliament breaks for its summer vacation, planned for July 20.“You are not going to see legislation this week,” Lewis said in an interview on Monday. “We are doing some work to see that we cover all the key issues. This is something we want to put out there as soon as possible but not in the next couple of days.”UK plans law to override Brexit deal in challenge to EU

While the UK would prefer to reach a negotiated solution, the situation in Northern Ireland means Britain has to act, ministers argue. The government plans to proceed with the legislation in parallel to talks with the EU over the trading arrangements in Northern Ireland, a move that has escalated tensions with the bloc and raised the prospect of a trade war.

“We will see over the next few weeks, we are very open to having those conversations,” Lewis said. “Hopefully when we publish the legislation people will see it is actually very sensible, actually very logical, quite common-sense,” Lewis said.

“Maybe the EU will see the logic and show the flexibility to come to an agreement around that,” he said. “This legislation will allow us to ratify any agreement with the EU as well if we need to do that.”

Boris Johnson’s government is frustrated the deal it signed created a customs border between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK, snarling trade and contributing to the collapse of the region’s devolved government. But the plan risks sparking even greater disruption to commerce.

The EU is ready to suspend the entire trade agreement if Johnson makes good on his threats, and the bloc warned last week it was prepared to use “all measures” to punish the UK if the bill is enacted. With no majority in the upper House of Lords the UK government may have to force the measure through, but that would take even longer.

Lewis said he will host delegation of politicians from the US at Hillsborough Castle on Wednesday to explain the UK’s view.

“We have got to get a resolution that works,” Lewis said, when asked what he will tell the US lawmakers. “This has got to work for the people of Northern Ireland in terms of good flow of trade between Northern Ireland and Ireland, but Northern Ireland is part of the United Kingdom and it has got to have good free-flow as part of the UK internal market and that is what the protocol set out to achieve.”

The US group is led by Congressman Richard Neal who is the head of the Ways and Means Committee in the House of Representatives. Neal was due to meet Taoiseach Micheal Martin in Dublin on Monday. BM

 

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