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The Prime Minister is facing intense opposition to his plans to rip up parts of the Brexit deal if trade talks with the EU collapse. But Mr Johnson insisted the bloc is making unreasonable demands in the negotiations that no British premier could ever accept. He said controversial proposed new laws simply provide a “safety net” to ensure Brussels cannot block food exports to Northern Ireland from the rest of the UK.
In a message to the Tory grassroots, he wrote: “Threatening to put up blockades across our own country, divide our own land and change the very economic geography of our own union.
“No British Prime Minister, Government or Parliament has ever bowed to such a humiliating and offensive threat.”
Mr Johnson wants to pass new laws that will allow the government to override some parts of the withdrawal agreement to protect the relationship between Great Britain and Northern Ireland if a trade agreement cannot be reached with the EU.
But a number of senior Tories, including ex-PM Theresa May and former Attorney General Geoffrey Cox, a Brexiteer, oppose the UK Internal Market Bill because it will breach international law.
The PM comfortably saw off a rebellion on Monday when the legislation faced its first Commons hurdle.
But Mr Johnson is facing a larger scale revolt next week when the Commons will vote on detailed changes to the legislation unless he can find a way to win over concerned MPs.
Tory former Cabinet minister Andrew Mitchell said he backed large parts of the Bill, but would not vote for it unless it is amended.
He said: “To ask members of the parliamentary party to walk through the Lobbies quite deliberately voting to breach international law is something which I cannot do.
“We all want to help the Government with these negotiations, but to do that flies in the face of all British tradition.”
Tory Sir Bob Neill, chairman of the Commons Justice Committee, is expected to table an amendment that would require a vote of Parliament before ministers could exercise their powers under the legislation.
As the Bill stands, there has to be a vote by MPs, but only after ministers have taken action.
Home Secretary Priti Patel later refused to be drawn on whether ministers could accept the amendment as a means of defusing the revolt.
“I don’t think right now it is even appropriate to comment on amendments that may or may not come forward,” she said.
“We want to reach an agreement still with the EU and we are going to concentrate as a Government to work to achieve that, but through this Bill right now we want to have the safeguards and mechanisms in place to ensure we stay true to the people of Northern Ireland.”
European Commission vice president Maros Sefcovic has made the views of the EU known to the government, a spokesman said.
Brussels expects the UK to withdraw the provisions from the draft Internal Market Bill, he added.
“This is what we expect from the United Kingdom and we have made our views extremely clear.
“And we are not going to speculate on anything in the meantime. We are waiting to see the developments in London on this issue.”
Downing Street yesterday warned the unelected House of Lords not to block the legislation when it reaches the upper chamber.
Peers repeatedly tried to derail legislation setting out Britain’s departure from the EU and are gearing up for a fresh battle with the government.
No 10 said they have no right to reject it because conventions dictate the Lords does not block legislation that implements government manifesto commitments.
“Guaranteeing the full economic benefit of leaving the EU to all parts of the United Kingdom and ensuring Northern Ireland’s businesses and producers enjoy unfettered access to the rest of the UK were clear Conservative manifesto commitments which this legislation delivers,” a Downing Street spokesman said.
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