Brexit bill in ping-pong as MPs reject changes

Brexit bill in ping-pong as MPs reject changes

MPs and peers are at loggerheads over government plans to regulate trade between the four nations of the UK after Brexit.

MPs voted against changes to Internal Market Bill which would have given Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland a greater say over UK trading rules.

Business minister Paul Scully said the government “cannot agree” with the Lords amendments.

The bill will now go back to the House of Lords for the third time on Monday.

The government has been defeated 14 times on this bill, and by overturning the Lords’ latest changes the bill continues to “ping-pong” – the term used when legislation goes back and forth between the Commons and Lords as they reject each others changes.

What is Parliamentary ‘ping-pong’?

After the Brexit transition period ends on 31 December and the UK stops following EU rules and regulations, the devolved governments will gain powers in areas such as animal welfare, currently managed at the EU level.

The UK government says new legislation in the Internal Markets Bill is needed to recognise standards drawn up by the Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish administrations.

MPs rejected amendments peers made to the bill on Wednesday, which would have allowed the devolved administrations more scope to diverge from rules that apply across the UK.

Amendments were also thrown out by MPs that would have given the devolved administrations a greater say over a new UK fund to replace EU regional spending, and in drawing up rules governing state support for businesses.

Labour’s shadow Business secretary Ed Miliband said the bill contains “deeply flawed proposals for undermining shared governance”.

Mr Miliband added: “We want the UK Internal Market Bill to reach the statute book, it must happen though in a way that does not ride roughshod over the way we are governed.

“I hope very much, for the sake of the United Kingdom, for the sake of respecting the devolution settlement, that the government will reflect on this over the coming days.”

The Scottish and Welsh governments argue the bill would undermine their ability to make their own rules.

SNP business spokesman Drew Hendry said the bill is “unwanted” and undermines devolution.

Opponents have also claimed the bill will stymie future planned discussions to agree UK-wide standards, by effectively giving Westminster the final word on which standards should be allowed.

Mr Hendry told MPs: “This shabby, shambolic, pernicious Bill should never have seen the light of day.

“It’s already been delivered an historic defeat in the Lords, they rightly tore it apart, yet this government has overturned all of their amendments and sent them back to them.”

On Wednesday the government agreed to drop controversial sections from the bill which would have allowed ministers to override the UK’s Brexit divorce bill.

The clauses – which would have allowed ministers to breach international law – had threatened to jeopardise ongoing talks between the UK and the EU over a post-Brexit trade deal.

Mr Scully said the measures would have “provided for the safety net” if the government had not reached agreement with the EU.

But they were now being removed from the bill as they were “no longer required” after the government reached an agreement in principle with the EU on how rules in the Brexit divorce deal will be implemented.

Sir Bob Neill, who chairs the Commons justice committee, welcomed the removal of clauses from the bill saying it was “better off” without them.

He told MPs: “I welcome the fact that the government have accepted it was unwise, if I can put it charitably, to have certain clauses in this bill which might have impugned our international reputation for supporting the rule of law.£

Mr Hendry said the clauses “should never have been in there in the first place and have only served further to diminish this government and the UK’s already tattered international reputation.”

In Cardiff, members of the Senedd voted to reject the bill, after claims from Labour it would “neuter” devolution.

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