Brexit news latest: Boris Johnson faces Commons showdown over bill to override Brexit deal as Geoffrey Cox leads rebellion
When asked on Sky News if Brandon Lewis was wrong to say the Government was breaking international law, the Home Secretary said: “We are absolutely not doing that.” She added: “The purpose of the bill is to ensure we preserve the integrity of the United Kingdom.”
Meanwhile, Sajid Javid and Lord Hague became the latest senior figures to join the rebels after David Cameron became the fifth former prime minister to express misgivings about the move. It comes after the bill passed the first Commons hurdle on Monday.
In other news, the Government has admitted it is preparing for the “reasonable worst case” scenario ahead of Brexit as a leaked report warned of queues of 7,000 lorries in Kent and significant delays to cross into the EU.
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Good morning and welcome to our live updates on the Brexit negotiations.
The UK’s chief negotiator has demanded “more realism” from the EU on the eve of crunch negotiations today to broker a post-Brexit trade deal.
Lord Frost said the two sides “can no longer afford to go over well-trodden ground” in the deadlocked talks, as he warned progress must be made this week to get an agreement in place for the end of the transition period.
DUP welcomes “in broad terms” speculation that elements of the Brexit withdrawal deal may be superseded
In a statement on Monday evening, the party said: “We note the speculation that the Government will pursue fall-back measures under the Internal Market Bill to protect Northern Ireland’s interests should a deal not be agreed that mitigates the threat of the NI Protocol.
“We will want to see the finer details and clauses relating to this, and will study them carefully.
“We welcome them in broad terms in so far as they go, but the Government must continue to work to remove any disadvantages to Northern Ireland brought about by its signing up to the protocol.”
French President Macron held a “very good discussion” with Boris Johnson on subjects including Brexit
Mr Macron wrote on Twitter: “We will step up our co-operation against migrant smugglers. We discussed steps to take following the poisoning of Alexei Navalny, the situation in Lebanon and the future relationship between the European Union and the United Kingdom.”
European Commission proposes new trade chief
The European Commission has proposed experienced Latvian vice president Valdis Dombrovskis to take over the post as EU trade chief following the resignation of Ireland’s Phil Hogan.
Commission president Ursula von der Leyen made the announcement as she named European Parliament heavyweight Mairead McGuinness as the new financial services commissioner to fill Ireland’s seat at the table.
Mr Dombrovskis has already been holding the post temporarily since Mr Hogan’s resignation on August 26.
He now fills a vital post in dealing with the United States, China and post-Brexit Britain, with all three demanding near-daily attention.
“I am looking forward to work on all those issues,” Mr Dombrovskis said.
It also means Ms von der Leyen has limited her reshuffle in the Commission, and with Ms McGuinness she further narrowed the gender gap in the Commission, which now stands at 14 men and 13 women.
Legislation changes are a necessary ‘safety net’, says Government spokesman
The Prime Minister’s spokesman said discussions were continuing with the EU to resolve the outstanding issues relating to the Northern Ireland protocol, intended to ensure there is no return of a hard border with the Republic once the transition is over.
He said the legislative changes were a necessary “safety net” in the event that they were unable to come to an agreement.
But European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen warned there could be no backtracking by the UK on its previous commitments if it wanted to reach a free trade agreement.
“I trust the British Government to implement the Withdrawal Agreement, an obligation under international law and prerequisite for any future partnership,” she said.
Mairead McGuinness names as Ireland’s new European Commissioner
Irish MEP Mairead McGuinness has been announced as Ireland’s new European Commissioner. The Fine Gael MEP will take over the financial services and financial stability portfolio.
European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen made the announcement to fill the vacancy created by Phil Hogan, after his controversial resignation over his attendance at an Oireachtas golf society dinner in Co Galway.
The Government proposed Ms McGuinness and senior banker Andrew McDowell as its two candidates to succeed Mr Hogan.
Mrs McGuinness is first vice president of the European Parliament and Mr McDowell is the former vice president of the European Investment Bank. Mr Hogan had been the EU’s commissioner for trade and had been expected to play a key role in negotiating the post-Brexit deal with the UK.
Ms von der Leyen said Ms McGuinness had her full trust for the post.
Senior DUP MP insists party is not divided on its position to the Northern Ireland protocol
Sir Jeffrey Donaldson maintained there was “only one train of thought” among his colleagues on the Brexit withdrawal deal amid questions around seemingly contrasting positions taken by leader Arlene Foster and other party figures.
Scrutiny of the DUP’s stance has intensified as speculation continues over the Government’s apparent desire to use domestic legislation to override elements of the contentious protocol.
On Monday night the DUP issued a statement saying the Withdrawal Agreement must be scrapped or changed to ensure Northern Ireland’s place within the Union is protected.
However, in an interview aired on Friday Mrs Foster said she had to “recognise the reality” that the agreement is now law and she has to be part of the process that sees the Northern Ireland protocol implemented.
In an interview with Sky News, she said: “I mean, there are some who would continue to fight against the protocol; I have to recognise that that is the reality now.”
Brexit fishing talks disruption claim is denied by Scottish Cabinet minister
A Scottish Government minister has denied it undermined Brexit talks by urging both sides to compromise on the fishing sector.
UK Government trade officials are said to be furious at the Scottish Government for their intervention in deadlocked negotiations, claiming it made the talks harder.
Regular discussions, separate to the Brexit negotiations, are held between Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, other Government ministers and the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier.
According to a report in The Times, sources at Westminster said they “called out” their Holyrood counterparts during an official catch-up between the Scottish and UK Governments for apparently saying “both sides need to move a bit”.
A UK Government source told the newspaper: “This behaviour does not just undermine the UK Government, it undermines Scotland and its fishermen by stopping the UK from speaking as one voice to say that we want to be an independent coastal state once again.”
Asked about the story, Scotland’s Constitution Secretary Mike Russell told BBC Radio Scotland he will continue to call for compromise.
He said: “I think what the UK is saying is that we’ve attempted to disrupt negotiations – they’ve actually been able to do that themselves without any difficulty, they didn’t need our help to do so. But what actually has happened is part of the normal conversation that the Scottish Government has had with the EU over the past four years, and at all times we’ve stressed the need to compromise on both sides.”
Secretary of the Attorney’s General Office resigns
Sir Jonathan Jones has resigned as the permanent secretary of the Government Legal Department, the Attorney’s General’s Office has said, in the latest departure of a top civil servant.
The Financial Times reported Sir Jonathan quit due to a dispute with Downing Street over suggestions it will challenge parts of the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement.
A spokesman for the Attorney General’s Office said: “I can confirm Sir Jonathan has resigned but cannot comment further.”
Ministers react to resignation of Government legal head
Sir Jonathan Jones is the sixth resignation of a senior civil servant this year amid growing tensions between officials and Downing Street as Mr Johnson and his top aide Dominic Cummings plan an overhaul of Whitehall.
Labour’s shadow attorney general Lord Falconer tweeted: “Jonathan Jones impressive lawyer and very decent person. Loyal civil servant.
“If he can’t stay in the public service, there must be something very rotten about this Government. Reckless, law breaking, trashing the best of the UK.”
Tory MP calls on Prime Minister to assert its own interpretation of the Withdrawal Agreement if EU insists on ‘unreasonable’ measures
Senior Conservative MP Sir Bernard Jenkin has called on Boris Johnson to repudiate the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement (WA) if the EU insists on an “unreasonable” interpretation of its provisions.
Sir Bernard, who chairs the steering group of the pro-Brexit European Research Group, said that if there was no agreement with Brussels the UK must assert its own interpretation of the WA.
“If the EU is unwilling to do a deal with us, there are two options. The first is to enact domestic legislation that will largely nullify the direct effect and direct applicability of EU law. We have the mandate and majority to do this,” he said in a statement.
“Second, if the EU insists on an unreasonable interpretation of the Withdrawal Agreement, the UK must stand ready to repudiate it.
“I hope it is not necessary, but if it is the only way to achieve UK prosperity and the kind of sovereign independence which is the democratic right of any nation recognised under the UN Charter, then so be it. And most other nations would respect us for that.”
Shadow foreign secretary Lisa Nandy pressed ministers on sticking to the UK’s international obligations, following the resignation of Sir Jonathan Jones – the Government’s legal head.
She said: “In the last six months (Dominic Raab) has publicly reminded Iran, Israel, China and Russia of their obligations under international law. I agree with him.
“So does he agree with me and with the most senior legal official in Government, who has behaved with honour and principle this morning, that when the Prime Minister briefs that he will unilaterally tear up our international obligations under the Withdrawal Agreement, it undermines our moral authority, it harms our national interest and it makes a mockery of his attempts to stand up for international law.
“And will he assure this House that he, as the Foreign Secretary, will never vote for amendments which violate our international obligations?”
Mr Raab responded: “I obviously respect all of the brilliant civil servants that work for us, I use to work as a Foreign Office lawyer myself. What I can say to (Ms Nandy) is that I’m surprised that she would open up this to question.
“That we ought to, as we go through the uncertainty of changing our relationship with the EU, make sure that as regards to the internal market within the UK, there’s maximum certainty for businesses and of course we will legislate to that effect.”
Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis, responding to an urgent question, told MPs: “We are fully committed to implementing the Withdrawal Agreement and the Northern Ireland protocol.
“We have already taken many practical steps to do so.
“The protocol was designed to maintain the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement, the gains of the peace process, and to protect the interests of all people in Northern Ireland and that is what this Government will do and will continue to deliver upon.”
Brandon Lewis said the UK Government is taking “limited and reasonable steps to create a safety net” to allow it to deliver on its commitments to the people of Northern Ireland and keep in line with the protocol.
He said the protocol states it should impact as little as possible on the every day of life communities and depends on the consent of the people of Northern Ireland, telling MPs: “As we continue to implement the protocol, this overriding need must be kept in mind.
“This Government has consistently said that people and businesses in Northern Ireland will have unfettered access to the whole of the UK market.”
Mr Lewis said such a guarantee was also in the Conservative Party manifesto, adding: “The approach we will take in this legislation builds upon that commitment and on the specific commitment we made in the New Decade, New Approach agreement to legislate by the end of the year for unfettered access.
“This has been one of the most consistent asks from Northern Ireland businesses since the protocol was agreed and we’re now moving to provide certainty. Our approach guarantees that we will be able to deliver the objectives we set out for implementing the protocol in a way that protects the interests and the economy of Northern Ireland.”
Mr Lewis said the Government is “working hard to resolve any outstanding issues”, adding: “We are taking limited and reasonable steps to create a safety net, one that ensures the Government is always able to deliver on its commitments to the people of Northern Ireland and in line with the protocol.”
Labour’s shadow Northern Ireland secretary Louise Haigh quoted former Tory prime minister Margaret Thatcher as she urged the Government not to renege on its commitments set out in the Withdrawal Agreement.
She told the Commons: “At the start of a new chapter for our United Kingdom, we cannot afford to be seen as a country that cannot be trusted.
“As Margaret Thatcher said ‘Britain does not renounce treaties. Indeed to do so would damage our integrity as well as international relations’.
“In those interests, in the national interest, I urge the Government to stop the posturing, rediscover their responsibility and secure the deal that was promised to the people of this country.”
Tory former Prime Minister Theresa May raised concerns in the Commons over trust.
She said: “The UK Government signed the Withdrawal Agreement with the Northern Ireland protocol, this Parliament voted that Withdrawal Agreement into UK legislation.
“The Government is now changing the operation of that agreement. Given that, how can the Government reassure future international partners that the UK can be trusted to abide by the legal obligations of the agreements it signs?”
Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis replied: “We have worked with the EU in a spirit of good faith and I know we continue to do that, both sides working in a spirit of good faith to ensure we do implement the arrangements which uphold the fundamental principles that lie behind the protocol, and of course our first priority continues to be to secure agreement on the protocol for the joint committee and the wider free trade agreement.
“But the Withdrawal Agreement and protocol are not like any other treaty, it was written on the assumption that subsequent agreements could be reached between us and the EU on the detail. That is the entire purpose of the specialised joint committee and we continue to believe that that is possible, but as a responsible government we cannot allow businesses to not have certainty for January.”
Downing Street has confirmed that Sir Jonathan Jones has resigned as head of the Government Legal Department but would not comment on the reason for the departure.
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “I can confirm that he is stepping down and we would thank him for his years of hard service and wish him well for the future.”
Asked if Sir Jonathan signed off on the new Brexit legislation, the spokesman said: “It is for ministers to determine the legislation…
“We don’t comment on the specific legal advice which ministers receive.”
SNP deputy Westminster leader Kirsten Oswald said: “This using the internal market Bill to renege on parts of the Withdrawal Agreement is extraordinary and dangerous.”
She added: “Who will want to do business with a Government that can’t stick to an agreement with itself, never mind with anyone else?”
Mr Lewis replied: “We have a distinct difference of opinion because where as the SNP want to hand back powers straight to Brussels, we the UK Government and the Conservative Party have been clear, we want to take those powers back for the residents and citizens of the UK and indeed we will be devolving power to the devolved authorities.”
Downing Street has said ministers signed up to the Northern Ireland protocol in the hope “ambiguity in important areas” would be resolved but cannot allow “damaging default positions to kick in” if agreement cannot be found.
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “The Withdrawal Agreement was written on the basis that subsequent agreements could be reached between us and the EU on the detail through the joint committee process.
“That may yet be possible and we remain committed to talks with the EU, but as a responsible Government we can’t allow damaging default positions to kick in if we can’t agree those at joint committee.
“We signed up to the Northern Ireland protocol in belief that its ambiguity in important areas would be resolved satisfactorily by the joint committee this year that may still happen.
“(The Prime Minister) has publicly ruled out export summary declarations on goods moving from NI to GB and tariffs on goods moving from GB to Northern Ireland on several occasions and he did that in advance of the Withdrawal Agreement being approved by the EU.”