Brexit: UK Tories agree deal on international law breach

The UK prime minister agreed a deal with potential rebels within his own Conservative Party on Wednesday evening, giving Parliament a say in how post-Brexit powers could be used.

Lawmakers who expressed unease about potential breaches of international law agreed to accept an amendment to the government's controversial Internal Market Bill. Members of Parliament will now have a veto on whether the government should be able to override the EU-UK Withdrawal Agreement.

The government has said that doing so would breach international law in a "limited and specific way," but that the provision might be necessary. That admission caused consternation from some within Boris Johnson's ruling party, who threatened to vote the bill down.

'Near-unanimous agreement'

Both sides issued a joint statement saying that they had reached an agreement.

"There is near-unanimous agreement that the government must be able to use these powers as a final resort, that there must be legal certainty, and that no further amendments are required on these powers," the government and two of the dissenting lawmakers said.

The bill creates a legal "safety net" that would allow Prime Minister Boris Johnson to override part of the EU-UK Withdrawal Agreement. The government says it is necessary to prevent disruption to trade between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK.

Johnson's party received a landslide majority of 80 seats at the country's 2019 general election, putting the prime minister in a strong position should the veto become an issue.

Warning from Brussels

Earlier in the day, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen issued a warning to the UK government. She said there could be no trade deal between the EU and the UK if London reneged on the withdrawal agreement.

"With every day that passes, the chances of a timely agreement do start to fade," von der Leyen said. 

She stressed that the Brexit divorce treaty, agreed and ratified by both the UK and EU, "cannot be unilaterally changed, disregarded or disapplied." 

"This is a matter of law and trust and good faith," von der Leyen added, recalling that British former-Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher said breaking treaties was "bad for Britain, bad for relations with the rest of the world and bad for any future treaty on trade.

rc/dr (dpa, Reuters)