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Brexit: Johnson says EU may not be negotiating in good faith Brexit: Johnson says EU may not be negotiating in good faith
(32 minutes later)
Boris Johnson has told MPs he believes the EU may not be negotiating with the UK in good faith.Boris Johnson has told MPs he believes the EU may not be negotiating with the UK in good faith.
The PM was explaining why he wants to overwrite parts of the Brexit deal he signed with the EU in January.The PM was explaining why he wants to overwrite parts of the Brexit deal he signed with the EU in January.
He said it was to prevent the EU behaving in an "unreasonable" way if the UK fails to agree a trade deal.He said it was to prevent the EU behaving in an "unreasonable" way if the UK fails to agree a trade deal.
Pressed by Labour's Hilary Benn on whether he thought the EU was negotiating in good faith, he said: "I don't believe they are."Pressed by Labour's Hilary Benn on whether he thought the EU was negotiating in good faith, he said: "I don't believe they are."
This contradicted Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis, who earlier told MPs he believed the EU was acting in good faith.This contradicted Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis, who earlier told MPs he believed the EU was acting in good faith.
When that was put to him, Mr Johnson said it was "always possible that I am mistaken and perhaps they will prove my suspicions wrong".When that was put to him, Mr Johnson said it was "always possible that I am mistaken and perhaps they will prove my suspicions wrong".
Potential rebellion
Both sides have a duty to act in good faith under Article 5 of the withdrawal agreement - but it is difficult to demonstrate a lack of "good faith" or "best endeavours" - another phrase enshrined in the treaty.Both sides have a duty to act in good faith under Article 5 of the withdrawal agreement - but it is difficult to demonstrate a lack of "good faith" or "best endeavours" - another phrase enshrined in the treaty.
Rebel deal
The legal definition of "good faith" is stronger than the generally accepted meaning of the words.The legal definition of "good faith" is stronger than the generally accepted meaning of the words.
Mr Johnson told the Liaison Committee, a panel of senior backbench MPs, that a no-deal scenario was "not what this country wants" and "it's not what our EU friends and partners want from us".Mr Johnson told the Liaison Committee, a panel of senior backbench MPs, that a no-deal scenario was "not what this country wants" and "it's not what our EU friends and partners want from us".
"Therefore I have every hope and expectation that that won't be the outcome.""Therefore I have every hope and expectation that that won't be the outcome."
It comes as the PM seeks to head off a potential rebellion by Tory MPs over his plan to rewrite parts of the withdrawal agreement. It comes as Lord Keen, Scotland's Advocate General, quit the government, telling the PM: "I have found it increasingly difficult to reconcile what I consider to be my obligations as a Law Officer with your policy intentions."
More than 30 Tory MPs were expected to vote for an amendment to the Internal Market Bill next week. Lord Keen objected to The UK Internal Markets Bill, which would allow the government to override parts of the withdrawal bill in contravention of international law.
If passed, Sir Bob Neill's amendment would have given MPs the final say over changes to the withdrawal agreement which are proposed in the Internal Market Bill. The PM has reached a deal with some of the Tory MPs unhappy with parts of the bill, potentially reducing the size of a rebellion when it returns to the Commons next week.
The PM has now promised to give MPs "an extra layer of Parliamentary oversight", the BBC understands. 'Near-unanimous agreement'
The government has agreed to table an amendment to the bill, which would give MPs a vote before it used the powers in the bill that would break international law.
In a joint statement with No 10, former cabinet minister Damian Green - head of a centrist group of Tory MPs - said: "The Internal Market Bill was designed to give MPs and peers a vote on the use of these powers via statutory instrument.
"But following talks, it is agreed that the Parliamentary procedure suggested by some colleagues provides a clearer, more explicit democratic mandate for the use of these powers, and also provides more legal certainty."
It means Sir Bob Neill - the Tory grandee who had been planning to try to give MPs the final say over the powers in the bill - will now drop his amendment.
The statement claims that on the Tory benches 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".
It adds that the government will table another amendment "which sets clear limits on the scope and timeliness of judicial review into the exercise of these powers."
'Belt and braces''Belt and braces'
The BBC's political editor Laura Kuenssberg said the hope from ministers is that this will "prevent rebellion next week".
Mr Johnson says the Internal Market Bill is needed to protect the "territorial integrity" of the UK if trade talks with the EU fail.Mr Johnson says the Internal Market Bill is needed to protect the "territorial integrity" of the UK if trade talks with the EU fail.
He described it to MPs as a "belt and braces" measure in case of "extreme" interpretations of the withdrawal agreement by the EU.He described it to MPs as a "belt and braces" measure in case of "extreme" interpretations of the withdrawal agreement by the EU.
The bill was "about ensuring friends and and partners don't do something unreasonable," he added. The bill was "about ensuring friends and partners don't do something unreasonable," he added.
But it has provoked a backlash from the EU, which has threatened legal action - and the possible suspension of trade talks - if it is not withdrawn.But it has provoked a backlash from the EU, which has threatened legal action - and the possible suspension of trade talks - if it is not withdrawn.
Brandon Lewis last week admitted - in response to a Commons question from Tory MP Sir Bob Neill - that the bill would break international law in a "specific and limited" way.
His words prompted the resignation of a senior government law officer and condemnation from all five living former prime ministers, who have warned that it threatens the UK's reputation for upholding treaties and international laws.
A number of Tory MPs abstained, or voted against, the bill on Monday - and many of them were expected to back Sir Bob Neill's amendment next week.
'Legal safety net'
Writing in the I Paper, Sir Bob said his amendment "seeks to put a Parliamentary lock on the powers the government is seeking to give itself".
He added: "Taking a sledgehammer to the entire bill would be the wrong approach.
"There is a great deal of good in it, with 51 of its 54 clauses fairly innocuous for the large majority.
"However, the gravity of the three remaining clauses require, at the very least, additional checks and balances.
"My amendment would ensure further Parliamentary approval is secured before the government can discharge them."
Speaking earlier, Mr Johnson's official spokesman said the PM and his team "are in conversations with MPs about the bill and the importance of creating the legal safety net".
He confirmed that the prime minister had spoken to Sir Bob and said "conversations with MPs will continue".
What is the Internal Market Bill?What is the Internal Market Bill?
The bill sets out rules for the operation of the UK internal market - trade between England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland - after the end of the Brexit transition period in January.The bill sets out rules for the operation of the UK internal market - trade between England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland - after the end of the Brexit transition period in January.
It proposes:It proposes:
The bill explicitly states that these powers should apply even if they are incompatible with international law.The bill explicitly states that these powers should apply even if they are incompatible with international law.
Ministers say the legislation is needed to prevent "damaging" tariffs on goods travelling from the rest of the UK to Northern Ireland if negotiations with the EU on a free trade agreement fail.Ministers say the legislation is needed to prevent "damaging" tariffs on goods travelling 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 it risks undermining the UK's reputation as an upholder of international law. But some senior Conservatives - including former Prime Minister Sir John Major - have warned it risks undermining the UK's reputation as an upholder of international law.
The legislation has also proved controversial with the devolved administrations, which are concerned about how the UK's "internal market" will operate post-Brexit and who will set regulations and standards.The legislation has also proved controversial with the devolved administrations, which are concerned about how the UK's "internal market" will operate post-Brexit and who will set regulations and standards.