All 32 Tory MPs who did not back law-breaking Brexit Bill at first hurdle


Tory rebels are furious with Boris Johnson as one warned: ‘If you keep whacking a dog, you shouldn’t be surprised when it bites you back’

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Tory rebels vented their fury last night after Boris Johnson pushed through the first stage of a Bill that will break international law.

The UK Internal Market Bill will override key parts of the Withdrawal Agreement, the Brexit deal which Boris Johnson himself signed with the EU last year.

MPs passed the Bill’s first hurdle by 340 votes to 263 last night – a comfortable majority of 77.

While this wasn’t the final showdown – and not all of the 32 Tories were rebels – it indicates the scale of the challenge facing Boris Johnson.

And it will pile pressure on him to offer some kind of climbdown ahead of a true crunch vote on Tuesday next week.

The row is all about a law called the UK Internal Market Bill, which came to Parliament for ‘second reading’ last night.

It will give ministers the ultimate power over which goods need EU tariffs paid, or EU forms filled out, when they are traded between Britain and Northern Ireland.

That has prompted outrage because the Withdrawal Agreement said the EU and UK would reach those decisions together, through a joint committee.

Boris Johnson claimed he had to take action because the EU had threatened to « blockade » food travelling from Britain to Belfast.

Despite literally signing the deal and basing an entire election campaign around it, the PM said: « We cannot have a situation where the very boundaries of our country could be dictated by a foreign power or international organisation. No British PM, no government, no parliament, could ever accept such an imposition. »

But in a devastating Commons speech, Labour’s business chief Ed Miliband claimed the Bill would not even solve that problem if it existed.

He offered the PM a chance to defend his bill – but Mr Johnson remained seated, his arms folded.

Mr Miliband thundered: « He didn’t read the protocol, he hasn’t read the Bill, he doesn’t know his stuff. »

A string of Tory MPs – including two former attorneys general – refused to back the Bill after a Cabinet minister, Brandon Lewis, admitted it would break international law in a « limited and specific way ».

Charles Walker raged: « If you keep whacking a dog, you shouldn’t be surprised when it bites you back. »

Former attorney general Jeremy Wright warned the PM the Ministerial Code orders him to obey international law.

Geoffrey Cox also refused to back the Bill but added: « I hope that further developments to make clear the government’s intention to act lawfully and consistently with our treaty obligations will enable my support in the coming days. »

Rehman Chishti quit as Boris Johnson’s religion envoy, saying backing the Bill « would be contrary to the values I hold dearest. »

Ex-Chancellor Sajid Javid said: « Breaking international law is a step that should never be taken lightly.

« Having carefully studied the UK Internal Market Bill it is not clear to me why it is necessary to do so. »

The Bill received its ‘second reading’ debate last night – where MPs only vote on the principle of the Bill as it stands.

Many MPs don’t rebel at this stage because they’re given other chances to block problematic bits later on.

The real drama is due next week when Tory MP Sir Bob Neill fights an amendment to give Parliament, not ministers, the final say over how to act.

That means last night’s vote is an indication of the scale of rebellion Boris Johnson could face.

However, the rebellion could grow if he fails to quell it, or he could think up some kind of offer to end the rebellion.

All five living ex-PMs – David Cameron, John Major, Tony Blair, Gordon Brown and Theresa May – have already spoken out against the plans, as has former Tory leader and arch-Brexiteer Michael Howard.

Mr Miliband jeered: « The PM has said many times he wants to bring unity to the country during his premiership.

MPs voted for the second reading of the UK Internal Market Bill by 340 votes to 263, majority 77.

One Tory MP, 195 Labour MPs, 11 Lib Dems, 47 SNP MPs, 3 Plaid Cymru, and single MPs for the Greens, Alliance and an Independent voted against.

Sir Roger Gale tweeted: « Ever since the Bill was published I have said that I would vote against it, and I have done so.

« Even though the Bill has passed this stage, I shall continue to oppose it unless there is a significant amendment which will restore the integrity of this government and the country. »

It’s important to note that some MPs do not vote because they are absent on a trip abroad, sick, or ‘paired’ with someone from another party who is absent.

So you can’t say all of these MPs are rebels and at least two (Graham Brady and Theresa May) have a good reason.


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