Boris Johnson has told lawmakers he believes the EU may not negotiate in good faith with the UK.
The prime minister was explaining why he wanted to rewrite parts of the Brexit deal he signed with the EU in January.
He said that if the UK failed to agree to a trade deal it was to prevent the EU from behaving “unfairly”.
Pressed by Labor’s Hillary Benn over whether she thinks the EU is negotiating in good faith, she said: “I don’t believe they are.”
This is in stark contrast to Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis, who has previously told lawmakers he believes the EU is acting in good faith.
When it was put to them, Mr Johnson said “it was always possible that I had made a mistake and maybe they would disprove my suspicions”.
Under clause of the withdrawal agreement both parties have a duty to act in good faith – but another line included in the treaty – it is difficult to point out the lack of “goodwill” or “best efforts”.
The legal definition of “goodwill” is stronger than the generally accepted meaning of the words.
Mr Johnson told a panel of senior backbench MPs’ liaison committee that the note-deal scenario was “not what this country wants” and “not what our EU friends and partners want from us”.
“So I have every hope and expectation that it won’t come to fruition.”
The PM wants to prevent a possible revolt by Prime Minister Tory MPs over his plan to rewrite parts of the return agreement.
More than 30 Tory lawmakers were expected to vote next week on amendments to the domestic market bill.
If passed, Sir Bob Neal’s amendment would have given MPs the final say on changes to the proposed withdrawal agreement in the domestic market bill.
The BBC understands that the PMA has now promised to give MPs “an extra level of parliamentary oversight”.
‘Belts and brackets’
The BBC’s political editor Laura Queensburgh said she hoped the ministers would “stop the uprising next week”.
Mr Johnson says an internal market bill is needed to secure the EU’s “territorial integrity” if trade talks with the EU fail.
He described MPs as “belt and bracket” criteria in the case of the “extreme” interpretation of the withdrawal agreement by the EU.
He added, “There was a bill to make sure friends and partners don’t do anything unreasonable.”
But it has provoked a backlash from the EU, which has threatened legal action – and the potential for trade talks – if it is not withdrawn.
Brandon Lewis acknowledged last week in response to a question from Tory MP Sir Bob Neal’s Commons – that the bill would break international law in a “specific and limited” way.
His remarks prompted the resignation of a senior government law official and the condemnation of all five surviving former prime ministers, who have warned that it threatens the UK’s reputation for upholding treaties and international law.
A number of Tory lawmakers avoided or voted against the bill on Monday – and many of them were expected to support Sir Bob Neal’s amendment next week.
‘Legal safety net’
Writing in eye paper, Sir Bob said his reforms “try to impose a parliamentary lock on the power the government wants to give itself”.
He added: “Taking a sledgehammer on the whole bill would be the wrong approach.
“It has the biggest advantage, 51 of the 54 clauses for its majority are absolutely innocent.
“However, for the gravity of the remaining three clauses, at least, additional checks and balances are required.
“My amendment will ensure that more parliamentary approval is obtained before the government discharges them.”
Earlier in the day, a spokesman for Mr Johnson said the prime minister and his team were “in talks with lawmakers about the bill and the importance of maintaining legal security.”
He confirmed that the Prime Minister had spoken to Sir Bob and said that “conversations with MPs will continue”.
What is an internal market bill?
After the end of the Brexit transition in January – the bill sets out the rules for trade between the UK’s internal markets, trade between England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
- There are no new inspections on goods going from Northern Ireland to the rest of Great Britain
- Empowering UK ministers to amend or “disappear” rules relating to the movement of goods, effective January 1, if the UK and the EU are unable to reach an alternative agreement through a trade deal.
- Previously agreed responsibilities on state assistance – powers to rewrite on government support for industries.
The bill clearly states that these powers should be applied even if they are inconsistent with international law.
The ministers say legislation is needed to stop “harmful” tariffs on passengers traveling from the rest of the UK to Northern Ireland if negotiations with the EU on a free trade agreement fail.
But some senior Conservatives, including former Prime Minister John Major, have warned that it could damage the UK’s reputation as a supporter of international law.
There is also the law Prove disputed with perverted administrationIs, which concerns how the UK’s “internal market” will work after Brexit and who will set the rules and standards.
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