Lawmakers have backed the government’s plans to override parts of its Brexit agreement with the EU.
Amid concerns that the move would break international law, the ministers agreed to tell parliament before using the powers conferred by the Internal Market Bill.
The law passed by a vote of 256 out of the House Commons will now go to the House Lords.
The government says it will help protect the UK’s integrity.
But Labor, the Liberal Democrats, the SNP and the EU argue that – allowing the government to undo parts of a treaty signed by the European Union and the UK – could damage the country’s international reputation and status.
Five living former UK prime ministers – Sir John Major, Tony Blair, Gordon Brown, David Cameron and Theresa May – have spoken out against the bill.
Parliamentary debate on Tuesday marked the start of the ninth – and final – scheduled talks between the European Union and the UK aimed at securing a trade deal.
The post-Brexit transition period – in which the UK adheres to EU trade rules and stays within its custom union and single market – runs at the end of the year.
If the parties fail to reach a deal, the UK will trade with the EU in accordance with WTO rules.
This would mean tariffs on most goods that UK businesses send to the EU, while the UK could also impose tariffs on EU goods.
The Internal Market Bill is designed to enable goods and services to flow freely across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland after 1 January.
It gives the government the power to change aspects of the EU withdrawal agreement, a legally binding deal that governs the terms of the Brexit agreement reached earlier this year.
What is an internal market bill?
After the end of the Brexit transition period 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 is no new inspection on goods going from Northern Ireland to 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 businesses
Ministers say the bill would provide a “safety net” if the EU interprets the agreement, especially the section on Northern Ireland, as “extreme and unreasonable”. This section, known as the Protocol, is designed to avoid a strict border on the island of Ireland.
Labor, the SNP and the Liberal Democrats opposed the bill, while the EU asked the UK government to remove its “controversial parts” by Wednesday.
At the Commons, Business Secretary Alok Sharma said the law would protect the “shared prosperity” of the UK’s countries, adding: “It shows that as a union, our country exceeds its share.”
Ed Miliband, shadow business secretary for Labor, said the “breaking” of the treaty signed by the UK and the EU was unprecedented and that the government’s stance had received “worldwide attention”.
EN Blackford, SNP’s Westminster leader, said ministers “fought normally and arrogantly” despite opposition to the bill in perverted countries.
The Democratic Unionist Party backed the government, which already has a Commons majority of about 80.
None of the Conservative lawmakers voted against the bill in its final stages – and although 21, including Mrs. May, did not vote, that does not mean they abstained.