UK's Johnson faces rebellion over plan to break Brexit treaty

Boris Johnson's government last week introduced a bill to override the EU treaty and unilaterally regulate UK trade

Johnson won the so-called second reading parliamentary vote on the Internal Market Bill by 340 votes to 263.

However, some senior Conservatives warned they could not support the legislation in its present form after ministers admitted last week that it breached worldwide law.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Monday a bill that would break global law by breaching parts of the Brexit divorce deal was needed because the European Union had not taken a "revolver off the table" in trade talks.

Senior conservative lawmaker Detlef Seif said the British plan to pass legislation that breaks its divorce treaty with the European Union, in a breach of global law, undermined Britain's credibility as a negotiating partner.

Several of Johnson's own Conservative MPs expressed alarm about breaking worldwide law, with ex-finance minister Sajid Javid and former attorney general Geoffrey Cox among those saying beforehand that they would not back the bill as it stood.

"I think that this is damaging our worldwide reputation for honest and straight-dealing at a time when we are about to embark on a series of trade negotiations".

"I took a view that you fight this tooth and nail at every step".

Sir Bob Neill, the chairman of the Commons Justice Committee who has tabled an amendment requiring a vote of Parliament before ministers can exercise the new powers in the Bill, urged MPs to "take the opportunity to change and improve these clauses".

Former Tory ministers Jeremy Wright and Andrew Mitchell warned the government the measures would weaken the UK's authority on the world stage.

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The EU denies threatening a blockade and says it merely wants Britain to live up to terms of the agreement.

Addressing the House of Commons, Johnson claimed the European Union was using arrangements in the Brexit deal meant to protect peace in Northern Ireland as "leverage" in ongoing trade talks.

But EU leaders have dismissed this as "spin" and warned Johnson to uphold commitments he himself made in the Brexit treaty a year ago - demanding he withdraw the offending parts of the new bill by the end of September.

But ministers also said they would listen to concerns, insisting that the powers being sought would only be used if other legal avenues had been exhausted and only if MPs explicitly voted to activate them.

The bill is created to enable goods and services to flow freely across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland when the United Kingdom leaves the EU's single market and customs union on January 1 at the end of the current transition period.

The PM also held a call with Conservative members of the House of Lords on Monday night.

Johnson temporarily halted the deadlock by sealing a divorce deal with Brussels late previous year, which he used to win a thumping 80-seat victory in a December general election.

An amendment introduced by Labour leader Keir Starmer would have stopped the bill from progressing to a second reading, arguing that it "undermines the Withdrawal Agreement already agreed by Parliament", however the provision was defeated 349 to 213, despite a number of Tory abstentions and one Conservative "yes" vote.

The parliamentarians will now begin detailed scrutiny of the bill on Tuesday with Conservative members seeking further assurances that the United Kingdom will not betray its treaty obligations.

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