Blog: Johnson Says Bill ‘Essential’ for U.K. Integrity: Brexit Update – Bloomberg

Boris Johnson

Photographer: Chris J Ratcliffe/Getty Images

Photographer: Chris J Ratcliffe/Getty Images

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Boris Johnson opened the first parliamentary debate on his bill to rewrite part of the Brexit divorce deal, saying the legislation is “essential” for guaranteeing the economic and political integrity of the U.K.

With a vote due at 10 p.m., the prime minister is facing growing opposition from within his own party to the measure. Former Chancellor Sajid Javid said he won’t back the bill, while Rehman Chishti, the prime ministers’ special envoy for freedom of religion or belief, resigned saying he couldn’t vote for it on principle.

Read More: How Johnson’s ‘Rogue State’ Upended Brexit in Just a Week: Q&A

Key Developments:

  • David Cameron expresses “misgivings” over Johnson’s legislation
  • Rehman Chishti quits as Johnson’s faith envoy (see 12 p.m.)
  • Conservative MP Bob Neill says support “growing” for his rebel amendment
  • The Government is expected to win first stage votes on Monday

Labour’s Miliband Slams Bill (5:30 p.m.)

Labour’s business spokesman and former leader Ed Miliband slammed Johnson’s plan, saying it would damage Britain’s international reputation and reduce the likelihood of a free-trade deal with the EU.

“This is the wrong thing to do, it’s not necessary and it’s deeply damaging for the country,” said Miliband, who was standing in for Labour leader Keir Starmer in the debate (see 12:05 p.m.). “From a man who said he wanted to get Brexit done and won an election on it, this gets Brexit undone by overturning key aspects of the Protocol that were agreed.”

Miliband said the legislation would lower the U.K.’s standing in the world and make it impossible for ministers to call-out other countries for refusing to stand by their international obligations.

Johnson Defends Bill (4:50 p.m.)

Boris Johnson defended the controversial legislation, criticizing the EU for threatening to prevent food from crossing between Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

“The EU has not taken that particular revolver off the table,” Johnson told MPs. “It is such an extraordinary threat, and it seems so incredible the EU could do so, that we are not taking powers in this bill to neutralize that threat, but obviously reserve the right to do so.”

Read More: Johnson Criticized Over Claim Bill Heads Off EU Blockade Threat

Irish Central Bank Head Warns of No-Deal Brexit (4:35 p.m.)

Irish Central Bank Governor and ECB Governing Council member Gabriel Makhlouf says it’s now “wise” to assume the U.K. and the EU will fail to reach a trade deal.

Speaking on a webinar, he said he was concerned “too many people were hoping that the transition period would carry on forever.”

Javid Adds Name to Tory Rebels (4:30 p.m.)

Former Chancellor of the Exchequer Sajid Javid said he will not be supporting the U.K. Internal Market Bill unless is it amended, adding to a growing list of heavyweight Tories opposing Johnson’s proposed legislation.

Farage Makes Brexit Threat (1:40 p.m.)

Brexit Party Nigel Farage said he will launch campaigns against Conservative MPs who vote against Johnson’s plans.

Johnson to Open Commons Bill Debate (1:15 p.m.)

The prime minister will open the parliamentary debate on the Internal Market Bill on Monday. His spokesman, James Slack, said it is “critical” MPs pass the bill before the year-end.

“We are fully committed to implementation of the Withdrawal Agreement and Northern Ireland protocol,” he told reporters. “We do also need to ensure we have a legal safety net in place to ensure the integrity of the U.K. internal market is protected.”

Another Tory Vows to Rebel (12:18 p.m.)

Starmer to Miss Monday’s Debate (12:05 p.m.)

Keir Starmer, leader of the main opposition Labour Party, won’t take part in Monday’s debate after a member of his household developed possible symptoms of Covid-19. As a precaution, Starmer will be in self-isolation while that person’s test results are awaited. He hasn’t shown symptoms himself and will be working from home.

Johnson Envoy Chishti Quits (12 p.m.)

Conservative MP Rehman Chishti resigned as Boris Johnson’s special envoy for freedom of religion or belief, citing his inability to support the Internal Market Bill.

“I will not be able to support the bill on a matter of principle,” Chishti, a Brexit supporter, said in a letter to the prime minister he posted on Twitter. “I feel strongly about keeping the commitments we make; if we give our word, then we must honor it.”

Goldman Warns of Economic Hit (11:45 a.m.)

Failure to reach a deal with the EU would trigger an economic hit two to three times bigger than the one ultimately caused by the coronavirus, Goldman Sachs analysts said on Monday.

The uncertainty around Brexit is likely to last beyond that caused by the pandemic, causing a long and deep shock rather than the short and sharp shock caused by the virus. Brexit will also hurt a different set of firms than those hit the most by the pandemic, Goldman said.

“We are skeptical of the argument that the sheer scale of the economic fallout from Covid-19 will obscure the economic impact from a breakdown in Brexit negotiations,” analysts including Sven Jari Stehn wrote. “A disruptive Brexit transition to a distant post-Brexit destination is likely to compound the economic impact of the coronavirus crisis.”

‘Growing’ Support for Rebel Amendment (11 a.m.)

Conservative MP Bob Neill, who has proposed an amendment to Johnson’s plan effectively giving Parliament a veto over whether the U.K. exercises the powers which would be in breach of international law, told Bloomberg Radio there’s a “good chance” it passes.

“We’ve got significant and growing support for it because I think it’s a sensible compromise,” he said. “It’s reasonable for the government to play hardball, but within the rules,” he said. “Don’t come down to the level of breaking your international commitments.”

Neill’s cause was boosted by the intervention of former Attorney General Geoffrey Cox, an influential Conservative backbencher, who wrote in the Times that Johnson’s approach does “unconscionable” damage to Britain’s international reputation.

Labour Will Vote Against Bill (Earlier)

The main opposition Labour Party will vote against Johnson’s Brexit plan, according to a person familiar with the matter.

Meanwhile Labour leader Keir Starmer told LBC Radio that while the party supports Johnson in trying to get a trade deal with the EU, it “will not go along with breaking international law.” Starmer also said he suspects Johnson’s latest move may be designed to gain leverage in the talks.

“He is making a mistake reneging on a deal and that will have reputational damage,” Starmer said.

Cameron Has ‘Misgivings’ on Brexit Plan (Earlier)

Former prime minister David Cameron completed the set of living ex-leaders of the U.K. who have spoken out against Johnson’s Brexit plan, saying he has “misgivings” over the proposals.

“Passing an Act of Parliament and then going on to break an international treaty obligation is the very, very last thing you should contemplate,” Cameron said in a pooled TV clip. “It should be an absolute final resort.”

Cameron joins Theresa May, John Major, Tony Blair and Gordon Brown in raising concerns about Johnson’s plan.

— With assistance by David Goodman, Tim Ross, and Stuart Biggs

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