Ministers insist that new US President Joe Biden is wrong to believe Boris Johnson is endangering the peace in Northern Ireland by threatening to reverse parts of the Brexit deal.
The Prime Minister has pledged to push forward with legislation giving him the power to override the Withdrawal Agreement.
That’s despite a major defeat in the House of Lords tonight, in which several contentious parts of the were dropped.
One of the clauses removed in a cross-party amendment was Part Five of the bill, which gives ministers the power to violate the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement – negotiated with Brussels last year.
The clause sparked outrage from opposition MPs, who accused the government of threatening to violate international law.
But the government has insisted it will simply reinstate all deleted parts of the bill when it returns to the Commons next month, despite the risk that this could create early tensions with Mr Biden.
The PM has pledged to push forward legislation giving him the power to override the withdrawal agreement with the EU despite an expected Lords defeat tonight.
The president-elect, proud of his Irish heritage, has slammed the bill, which aims to change Northern Ireland issues in the Withdrawal Agreement if trade talks with the EU fail.
During his election campaign he warned that a trade deal with the United States was “contingent” on preventing a return to a hard border on the island of Ireland and said the peace process could not. not “become a victim of Brexit”.
Cabinet Minister George Eustice suggested yesterday that Mr Biden had endorsed a “caricature” of the government’s plans and was wrong to think they could pose a threat to the peace process.
Instead, the environment secretary insisted the bill was designed to protect the Good Friday deal from the risk of disruption to trade between Britain and Northern Ireland by case of non-agreement with the EU.
Asked about Mr Biden’s concerns, Mr Eustice told BBC Radio 4’s Today program that if people understood ‘exactly what this bill was about rather than how it is sometimes caricatured’ they would see that it was intended to protect the peace process.
“It’s about ensuring legal clarity, legal certainty and the protection of the internal market in the UK, but above all about standing behind the Belfast agreement,” he said.
Ministers insist new US President Joe Biden is wrong in believing Boris Johnson is endangering the peace in Northern Ireland by threatening to reverse parts of the Brexit deal
“This bill seeks to protect the Belfast Accord by ensuring the economic and social stability of Northern Ireland. It is about protecting it, not about undermining it.
In the Lords, Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby raised concerns that the bill “fails to take into account the sensitivities and complexities of Northern Ireland and could have unforeseen and serious consequences for peace and reconciliation ”.
The archbishop stressed that he had previously said that the main goal of the lords was “to amend and improve the legislation, not to derail it”.
He added: “But I think I was wrong to say that. There is an even more primary function which is to defend the rule of law and to protect the balance of power and peace in our Union.
“These are the core values that we stand for and live by as a nation, now and in the years to come. “
Former Conservative leader Lord Howard said: ‘How can we blame other countries – Russia, China, Iran – if their behavior becomes reprehensible when we ourselves have so little respect for the treaties we sign, when we ourselves set such a lamentable example? ‘
In The Lords, Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby expressed concerns that the bill “fails to take into account the sensitivities and complexities of Northern Ireland and could have unforeseen and serious consequences for the peace and reconciliation ”
Former Chancellor Lord Clarke said the government’s drafting of the law was “a gesture similar to that of Donald Trump”.
He said the bill was “inherently ridiculous and deeply damaging to the reputation of this country”.
Before the Lords’ debate, No.10 defended the legislation. The Prime Minister’s official spokesperson said: “MPs supported the Internal Market Bill by 340 votes to 263 in September and our position remains that clauses are a vital safety net.
“We have made it clear that as a responsible government we cannot allow the UK peace process or internal markets to be inadvertently compromised by unintended consequences of the protocol.
“All of Lords’ amendments will be taken into account when they come back to the House of Commons, but we see these clauses as a vital safety net.
The bill is not expected to return to the Commons until early December as it still has some milestones to be taken in the Lords.
It has been suggested that Downing Street could avoid a clash with the White House by leaving the legislation without reinserting the clauses if a trade deal is negotiated with the EU.