Boris Johnson agrees to Brexit bill compromise to quieten Tory rebels

Prime Minister Boris Johnson departs 10 Downing Street, Westminster, London

Prime Minister Boris Johnson departs 10 Downing Street, Westminster, London. Photograph: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire

Boris Johnson has agreed to a compromise with Tory rebels over Boris Johnson’s controversial Brexit bill.

The proposals would give MPs a vote before Downing Street tries to use powers to break international law, a joint statement from Downing Street and Conservative MPs Sir Bob Neill and Damian Green said. 

The joint statement reads: “Following constructive talks over the last few days, the government has agreed to table an amendment for committee stage.

“This amendment will require the House of Commons to vote for a motion before a minister can use the ‘notwithstanding’ powers contained in the U.K. internal market bill.

“The internal market bill was designed to give MPs and Peers a vote on the use of these powers via statutory instrument. But following talks, it is agreed that the parliamentary procedure suggested by some colleagues provides a clearer, more explicit democratic mandate for the use of these powers, and also provides more legal certainty.


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“The government will table another amendment which sets clear limits on the scope and timeliness of judicial review into the exercise of these powers. This will provide people and businesses with the certainty that they need.

“We welcome the way the parliamentary party has come together on these issue. There is near-unanimous agreement that the government must be able to use these powers as a final resort, that there must be legal certainty, and that no further amendments are required on these powers.”

Earlier on Wednesday, media outlets were suggesting a compromise from No 10 was on the cards.

BBC Newsnight’s Nick Watt confirmed in a series of tweets that the “ball is rolling” in terms of a possible deal with the rebels. He claimed that government could effectively accept the Neill amendment because it would mean the controversial clauses could only be invoked by a parliamentary vote and not directly by ministers, and therefore be harder to challenge in court.

Former Tory rebels have expressed alarm at the move before it was confirmed in Wednesday’s statement.

Ex-Tory MP David Gauke, who had the whip removed after voting against Johnson’s Withdrawal Agreement last year, tweeted: “If taking the power to override a treaty is in itself a breach of international law (which is implicit in what [Northern Ireland Secretary] Brandon Lewis said), additional safeguards on the exercise of any such power (such as requiring a Commons vote) doesn’t stop it being a breach of international law.”He added: “I wouldn’t be surprised if the government accepts the Neill Amendment. But the Internal Market Bill would still be in breach of international law and any MP voting in support of the relevant provisions would be condoning that.”

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