Brexit: Boris Johnson to push ahead with bill despite previous Biden warning

9 November 2020, 07:51 | Updated: 9 November 2020, 10:58

Boris Johnson has said he will proceed with his Brexit bill despite a previous warning from Joe Biden
Boris Johnson has said he will proceed with his Brexit bill despite a previous warning from Joe Biden. Picture: PA
Nick Hardinges

By Nick Hardinges

Boris Johnson will push ahead with his controversial Brexit bill despite previous warnings from US President-elect Joe Biden over the draft legislation.

The prime minister congratulated the Democrat and vice president-elect Kamala Harris on their eventual victory before telling broadcasters he would proceed with the Internal Market Bill.

It comes as peers are set to vote on the bill - which would override clauses in the Withdrawal Agreement relating to Northern Ireland - later this week.

Opponents to the legislation fear it will allow the government to break international law, something ministers have admitted could happen if necessary.

Mr Biden, who is of Irish heritage, warned in September that the Good Friday Agreement cannot be "a casualty of Brexit" and said a trade deal between the US and the UK would be contingent on the peace terms being upheld.

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When asked on Sunday whether he was willing to go ahead with the legislation in spite of the president-elect's comments, Mr Johnson said: "Yes, as I told Ursula (von der Leyen, European Commission president) the parliamentary timetable goes ahead.

"The whole point of that bill, and indeed the Finance Bill, is to protect and uphold the Good Friday Agreement and the peace process in Northern Ireland.

"And again, that's one of the things that we're united on with our friends in the White House."

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said Britain had listened "very carefully to our American friends", including those in Washington's powerful Irish lobby, about their concerns regarding Brexit's impact on Northern Ireland.

However, he told BBC One's Andrew Marr Show he remained "confident we will navigate all of those issues sensitively [and] correctly".

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Meanwhile, the European Union's chief negotiator Michel Barnier will meet with his UK counterpart Lord Frost in London this week as he seeks to "find an agreement that respects the interests and values of the EU and its 27 Member States".

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has called on the government to scrap its Brexit legislation in order to build a world-leading alliance with the Biden administration, which is due to be inaugurated in January.

"We will soon have a president in the Oval Office who has been a passionate advocate for the preservation of the Good Friday Agreement," Sir Keir wrote in an article for The Guardian.

"He, like governments across the world, will take a dim view if our prime minister ploughs ahead with proposals to undermine that agreement.

"If the government is serious about a reset in its relationship with the United States, then it should take an early first step and drop these proposals."

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It comes as former deputy prime minister Nick Clegg warned that Mr Biden would view Brexit developments in a "completely different way" to his soon-to-be predecessor Donald Trump, given his Irish sympathies.

President Trump has been a vocal supporter of Brexit during his leadership while rallying against the EU's tariffs on US products.

Ex-Liberal Democrat leader Mr Clegg, who met regularly with Mr Biden when he was vice president under Barack Obama, told BBC Radio 4's Westminster Hour: "Joe Biden is immensely proud of his Irish roots - he quotes Seamus Heaney at the drop of a hat.

"This means something to him," added the now-California-based Facebook employee.

"So the UK will now be conscious of the fact that they have a US president who'll be focusing in a completely different way to Donald Trump on the impact of the Brexit deal - or still worse, a no-deal on a country, Ireland, that he really treasures and crucially on those sets of agreement, the Good Friday Agreement and others, that he thinks should be treated as sacrosanct."