The House of Lords (Upper) dealt a political setback on Monday to the British Prime Minister, the conservative Boris Johnson, by withdrawing from the controversial Internal Market law the clauses designed to unilaterally break the agreement with the European Union (EU) over the border in Ireland.
Johnson may reintroduce those provisions when the text returns to the House of Commons (Lower), expected in early December, although he will face a possible diplomatic conflict with both Brussels and with the president-elect of the United States, Joe Biden.
By 433 votes to 165, the elimination of the clauses was easily imposed in a chamber in which the Conservative government does not have a majority.
The EU has initiated a legal process against the Internal Market law, which in its eyes jeopardizes the Ulster peace treaty of 1998. This agreement requires that there be no border between the Republic of Ireland and the British region of Ireland from North.
With his version of the Internal Market law, Johnson wants to reserve the ability to break the mechanism agreed with Brussels, which stipulates that customs controls after Brexit will be carried out when goods cross between Northern Ireland and the island of Great Britain but not between the two Irlandes.
The newly elected president of the United States, who has spoken on numerous occasions about his Irish roots, warned already in September, when he was still only a candidate, that the Good Friday Agreement that ended the Northern Irish conflict cannot “become a victim of Brexit “.
Johnson’s official spokesman stressed today that the controversial provisions of the Internal Market law are a “safety net” for the UK, suggesting that the government hopes to assert its absolute majority in the Commons to reintroduce them into legislation.
Biden upsets the Brexit balance
The victory of the Democratic candidate in the United States elections causes Johnson to lose one of his closest allies, Republican Donald Trump, who has shown himself in recent years as a fervent supporter of Brexit.
Trump celebrated as a “great victory” the result of the 2016 referendum in which the British decided to leave the EU, and his team assured that the United Kingdom would be “first in line” to sign a new trade agreement with Washington.
With Biden, however, the possibility of a transatlantic trade treaty is conditional on maintaining a frictionless customs between the two Ireland, one of the main workhorses between London and Brussels.
The Irish Minister of Foreign Affairs, Simon Coveney, said today that the Brexit negotiations can take a turn with the election of the democrat, whom he defined as a “true friend of Ireland”.
The Lords uphold international legality
Several conservative lords spoke out during today’s debate against the plans of their own prime minister, considering that the Internal Market law passed by the Commons may violate international legality.
Michael Howard, leader of the tories between 2003 and 2006, he regretted that the “recently won sovereignty” of the United Kingdom with its departure from the EU serves the Executive to “break his word, violate international legality and deny a treaty signed just a year ago.”
The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, one of the representatives of the Anglican Church in the upper house, for his part asked the Government not to try to recover the clauses eliminated in the Lords, but to draw up others that guarantee “compliance with the law, peace and the balance of powers “.
Brexit negotiation continues
The EU chief negotiator for Brexit, Michel Barnier, is back in London to continue this week with the dialogue on the future relationship between the two sides of the English Channel.
Despite the fact that both teams have maintained intensive contacts since the end of October to try to unravel the negotiation, the blockade continues in the two most problematic areas: future European access to British fishing waters and the state aid scheme for companies that London will apply after Brexit.
The dialogue is taking place against the clock, since the United Kingdom will cease to be linked to community structures on December 31.
If an agreement has not been signed and ratified by then, trade with the EU will be governed by the generic rules of the World Trade Organization (WTO), with the consequent imposition of quotas and tariffs.
Barnier stressed today in a message on Twitter that any treaty must incorporate effective mechanisms to “guarantee compliance” with what was agreed, as well as respect “the autonomy of the EU and the sovereignty of the United Kingdom.”