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PM Johnson defeated in parliament on treaty-breaking Brexit laws

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Prime Minister Boris Johnson suffered a heavy defeat in parliament’s upper chamber on Monday (9 November) over proposed laws which would allow him to breach Britain’s EU exit treaty - a plan that has been criticized by US president elect Joe Biden, writes .

The Internal Market Bill is designed to protect trade between Britain’s four nations after Brexit. It contains clauses ministers say are needed to protect Northern Ireland’s delicate status as part of the United Kingdom, but would also break international law in a “specific and limited” way.

The House of Lords voted to strip those clauses from the bill in a series of defeats for the ruling Conservative Party. The government does not have a majority in the Lords and even some high-profile Conservative members opposed the clauses.

“The government should see sense, accept the removal of these offending clauses, and start to rebuild our international reputation,” said Angela Smith, the opposition Labour Party’s leader in the Lords.

But ministers are not backing down and intend to try to force the clauses into law later in the legislative process.

The publication of the bill in September provoked criticism with some saying it would wreck Britain’s international standing. Biden tweeted on 16 September that anything which endangered the peace accord between the Irish republic and Northern Ireland would threaten Anglo-American trade.

Johnson says the clauses are there to act as a safety net in case ongoing negotiations with the EU fail to work out how goods can flow between Britain, the British province of Northern Ireland, and across the open border with EU member Ireland.

Many instead saw the bill as a negotiating gambit to win concessions from the EU in trade negotiations. Brussels has launched legal action against Britain over the proposals.

“EU cannot ratify a new deal while thr UK is legislating to break a previous agreement,” Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney said on Twitter. “Trust & Good Faith Matters.”

The final wording of the bill has to be agreed by both houses, and typically the unelected Lords does not permanently block laws supported by the directly elected House of Commons.

However, the clauses may no longer be needed if talks with the EU on how to make the Irish border work are successful.

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Brexit tensions are a test for Europe, says French minister

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French Junior Minister for European Affairs Clement Beaune speaks during a press conference to outline France's strategy for the deployment of future COVID-19 vaccines, in Paris as the coronavirus disease outbreak continues in France, December 3, 2020. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier/Pool

French European Affairs Junior Minister Clement Beaune (pictured) said on Monday (14 June) that current tensions over Brexit between British Prime Minister Boris Johnson's government and the European Union were "a test" for Europe, Reuters.

The tensions between Britain and the EU threatened to overshadow the Group of Seven summit's conclusion on Sunday, with London accusing France of "offensive" remarks that Northern Ireland was not part of the United Kingdom. Read more.

"Mr Johnson thinks that you can sign deals with the Europeans and not respect them and that Europe will not react. It is a test for Europe," Beaune told Europe 1 radio.

"I am telling the British people, (Brexit) commitments must be respected... If it is not the case, retaliatory measures could be taken," Beaune added.

During talks with Emmanuel Macron at the G7 summit, Johnson queried how the French president would react if Toulouse sausages could not be sold in Paris markets, echoing London's accusation that the EU is preventing sales of British chilled meats in Northern Ireland.

"In Northern Ireland there are sausage import problems... Why? Because when you leave the European Union, you have necessarily some (trade) barriers," Beaune said.

"I cannot tell the French or the Europeans that Britain can export via (EU member) Ireland some products such as meat without any control... That is what it is all about. Brexit has consequences."

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Ex-EU Brexit negotiator Barnier: UK reputation at stake in Brexit row

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Head of the Task Force for Relations with the UK, Michel Barnier attendsthe debate on EU-UK trade and cooperation agreement during the second day of a plenary session at the European Parliament in Brussels, Belgium April 27, 2021. Olivier Hoslet/Pool via REUTERS

Michel Barnier, the European Union's former Brexit negotiator, said on Monday (14 June) that the reputation of the United Kingdom was at stake regarding tensions over Brexit.

EU politicians have accused British Prime Minister Boris Johnson of not respecting engagements made regarding Brexit. Growing tensions between Britain and the EU threatened to overshadow the Group of Seven summit on Sunday, with London accusing France of "offensive" remarks that Northern Ireland was not part of the UK. Read more

"The United Kingdom needs to pay attention to its reputation," Barnier told France Info radio. "I want Mr Johnson to respect his signature," he added.

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Germany’s Merkel urges pragmatic approach to Northern Ireland

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German Chancellor Angela Merkel (pictured) called on Saturday for a “pragmatic solution” to disagreements over part of the Brexit deal that covers border issues with Northern Ireland, Reuters Read more.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Britain will do "whatever it takes" to protect its territorial integrity in a trade dispute with the European Union, threatening emergency measures if no solution was found.

The EU has to defend its common market, Merkel said, but on technical questions there could be a way forward in the dispute, she told a news conference during a Group of Seven leaders' summit.

"I have said that I favour a pragmatic solution for contractual agreements, because a cordial relationship is of utmost significance for Britain and the European Union," she said.

Referring to a conversation she had with U.S. President Joe Biden about geopolitical issues, Merkel said they agreed that Ukraine must continue to remain a transit country for Russian natural gas once Moscow completes the controversial Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline under the Baltic Sea.

The $11 billion pipeline will carry gas to Germany directly, something Washington fears could undermine Ukraine and increase Russia's influence over Europe.

Biden and Merkel are due to meet in Washington on July 15, and the strain on bilateral ties caused by the project will be on the agenda.

The G7 sought on Saturday to counter China's growing influence by offering developing nations an infrastructure plan that would rival President Xi Jinping's multi-trillion-dollar Belt and Road initiative. L5N2NU045

Asked about the plan, Merkel said the G7 was not yet ready to specify how much financing could be made available.

“Our financing instruments often are not as quickly available as developing countries need them,” she said

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