PM tells Tory MPs to stop 'squabbling' over changes to Brexit bill

12 September 2020, 10:09

Boris Johnson warned MPs in a conference call last night
Boris Johnson warned MPs in a conference call last night. Picture: PA

By Asher McShane

The Prime Minister has warned Conservative MPs against "squabbling" over his plans to override parts of the Brexit deal.

Boris Johnson led a conference call of 250 of his MPs to insist the Internal Market Bill is essential to protecting the integrity of the union.

Mr Johnson warned them against a return to the "miserable, squabbling days of last autumn".

The prospect of breaching international law has sparked fury among senior Conservatives.

But Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove says he believes the government has the support of Tory MPs.

Mr Johnson said Brussels could "carve up our country" and "seriously endanger peace and stability" in Northern Ireland if Conservative MPs rebel to block his Bill.

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He is working to quell a plan to amend the legislation from senior Tories who are incensed that it could break international law by flouting the Withdrawal Agreement.

The EU criticised the plan as a serious breach of trust that jeopardises peace in Northern Ireland and has threatened legal action if ministers do not alter the UK Internal Market Bill by the end of the month.

But he has doubled down and argued it is "crucial for peace and for the Union itself" and said voting it down would reduce the chances of a trade deal with the EU.

Both Ireland and the EU, however, have warned that Mr Johnson's plans pose a serious risk to the peace process rather than protecting the Good Friday Agreement.

Leaders in the European Parliament said they would "under no circumstances ratify" any trade deal reached if "UK authorities breach or threaten to breach" the Withdrawal Agreement.

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Mr Johnson appeared not to have ended the disquiet within his party during the call, with senior backbencher Sir Bob Neill saying he was not reassured by the speech.

Sir Bob, who chairs the Commons Justice Committee and is tabling an amendment to the Bill which he says would impose a "parliamentary lock" on any changes to the Withdrawal Agreement, said he still contends it contains "objectionable" elements.

"I believe it is potentially a harmful act for this country, it would damage our reputation and I think it will make it harder to strike trade deals going forward," he told Channel 4 News.