Controversial Brexit legislation ‘will not survive’ – peers

The controversial Brexit legislation will not survive because it is a rule of law issue and not a Brexit one, an Irish parliamentary committee has been told.

Members of the House of Lords told Irish politicians that the contentious provisions in the UK Internal Market Bill were an attempt to force negotiations with the EU.

The British Government suffered a defeat on Tuesday, with peers backing by 395 votes to 169, majority 226, a "regret" amendment, condemning the controversial provisions.

The Oireachtas European Affairs Committee heard one peer describe the disputed legislation as "brinkmanship".

The legislation gives powers to British ministers to override the Brexit divorce deal.

Stewart Wood, a Labour peer and former Northern Ireland adviser to ex-prime minister Gordon Brown, said that Tuesday's motion was the "biggest political defeat" since the reform of the House of Lords in 1999.

Stewart Wood
Stewart Wood said he cannot see how the Bill can proceed unamended (Oireachtas TV/PA)

"If this vote was to be seen about Brexit it would have limited force, but I think the size of the vote suggests there was a general consensus this is more about the rule of law than Brexit, and that has political force," he told the committee.

"I don't see how the Bill can proceed unamended, but that is the political nexus for the next three or four weeks."

Lord Kerr said it is clear the Government cannot get the controversial clause of the Bill through.

"This clause cannot survive because of the rule of law issue, not because of the Brexit issue," he added.

"The majority in favour of the 'regret' motion would have been much smaller if it had been just a Brexit issue."

Conservative Baroness Couttie said there is a lack of evidence to back up the Government's claim that the EU is acting in bad faith.

Baroness Couttie
Baroness Couttie said there is a lack of evidence to back up the Government's claim that the EU is acting in bad faith (Oireachtas TV/PA)

"If they were then that would mean that the Internal Market Bill with Clause 5 within was not in fact breaking international law," she told committee members.

"I don't think anybody within the Conservative Party, within the House of Lords or Parliament as a whole would want to break international law, so there is just a difference of opinion as to where you come down in the circumstances of having not got any evidence."

Asked why the British Government refuses to use the dispute resolution process, Baroness Couttie said: "Informally I have been told that the concern was, if the joint committee did classify all agricultural goods and food products moving from the UK to Northern Ireland as being 'at risk', this would cause such an impact on the Northern Ireland economy.

"(And) indeed possibly the peace in Northern Ireland, given the unionist desire to remain intact as part of the UK that would have serious detrimental impact on the UK in the short term."

She said, however, they have received no evidence to back up those claims.

Liberal Democrat peer Lord Oates said it is no longer an issue about Brexit, but is about rule of law and the reputation of the UK.

"There is no doubt about the breach of international law, he added.

"We take it extremely seriously. This in its current form won't go through the House of Lords and hopefully the Government will see that and remove the relevant part."

He added: "Trust has been undermined. This is probably brinkmanship and attempt to force negotiations – I'm not sure it has been effective."

Pictures of the week: October 18 - 24
See Gallery
Pictures of the week: October 18 - 24
A lantern seen at an installation in London's Chinatown ahead of the global debut of the new computer-animated musical adventure film Netflix film 'Over The Moon' (Photo by Dave Rushen / SOPA Images/Sipa USA)
A Sotheby's employee displays a Mughal gem set ivory horse head-hilted dagger, top and an Ottoman steel bladed ivory hilted dagger during a photo call ahead of the auction house's Islamic World, Legendary Timepieces and Middle Eastern Art sales, in London, Friday, Oct. 23, 2020. (Jonathan Brady/PA via AP)
People queue outside a bar in central Manchester, England, Thursday Oct. 22, 2020, as strict coronavirus restrictions on England's second-largest urban area, Greater Manchester, will start at midnight. (AP Photo/Jon Super)
Boris Becker leaves Southwark Crown Court in London, Thursday, Oct. 22, 2020. German tennis star Boris Becker is charged with 19 offences of failing to disclose money and property as part of bankruptcy proceedings. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)
Cars at the border crossing between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, as gardai conduct checks asking people the reason for their journey. (Photo by Brian Lawless/PA Images via Getty Images)
A member of the back stage staff wears PPE as she helps a ballerina from Northern Ballet prepares in a dressing room at Leeds Playhouse, ahead of Northern Ballet's first live performances in more than seven months. (Photo by Danny Lawson/PA Images via Getty Images)
SHEFFIELD, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 22: Busker Tony Black turns his "smiley" face mask upside down to reflect the current mood as he entertains shoppers on October 22, 2020 in Sheffield, England. The county of South Yorkshire, which includes the city of Sheffield will move to Tier 3 'Very High' Covid-19 alert on Saturday. (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)
A woman with an umbrella walking past street art in Camden, London. Weather warnings have been issued as Storm Barbara is expected to bring gale force winds and heavy showers to southern parts of the UK.
A lone punt on the River Cam in Cambridge. Weather warnings have been issued as Storm Barbara is expected to bring gale force winds and heavy showers to southern parts of the UK.
Lamp installations in London's UK's Chinatown, to celebrate the new Netflix film Over The Moon, released this Friday. Picture date: Wednesday October 21, 2020. Photo credit should read: Matt Crossick/Empics
SHEFFIELD, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 22: A man walks past a Covid-19 testing site on October 22, 2020 in Sheffield, England. The county of South Yorkshire, which includes the city of Sheffield will move to Tier 3 'Very High' Covid-19 alert on Saturday. (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)
Britain's Prince William and his wife Kate the Duchess of Cambridge meet pharmacist Joyce Duah as they visit St. Bartholomew's Hospital in London, to mark the launch of the nationwide 'Hold Still' community photography project, Tuesday, Oct. 20, 2020. The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge on Tuesday met a small number of staff from the hospital, including pharmacist and photographer Joyce Duah and the two pharmacy technician colleagues she photographed writing on their PPE as they put it on, in a photograph that was selected to be in the set of 100 images taken during the coronavirus lockdown. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham, Pool)
Ben Cullen Williams art installation, A=V 2020 in London's Covent Garden, commissioned by Covent Garden and executed by MTArt. Described as Otherworldly, celestial, toxic. The installation explores our relationship to the unknown and interstellar. A landing or possible escape. A portal into another world, reality altered. (Photo by Dave Rushen / SOPA Images/Sipa USA)
People walk past the empty Southern Pavilion cafe on Worthing Pier, West Sussex, on another sunny day as businesses in the UK continue to suffer from the Coronavirus pandemic.
LINCOLN, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 20: Plymouth Argyle's Michael Cooper during the Sky Bet League One match between Lincoln City and Plymouth Argyle at LNER Stadium on October 20, 2020 in Lincoln, England. (Photo by Andrew Vaughan - CameraSport via Getty Images)
Hospitality workers beat their pans to protest in Parliament Square in London, Monday, Oct. 19, 2020. Hospitality workers are demonstrating outside Parliament against tougher coronavirus restrictions and the amount of financial support given by the government to the industry.(AP Photo/Frank Augstein)
A Red Panda lays on branch at Paradise Wildlife Park in Broxbourne, Hertfordshire. (Photo by Dave Rushen / SOPA Images/Sipa USA)
A man wearing a face mask, required on public transport, rides a bus across Westminster Bridge in London, England, on October 19, 2020. (Photo by David Cliff/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
A view of the HS2 (High Speed 2) Rebellion encampment in Euston Square, London as they protest against the destruction of woodland due to the construction of the high speed rail link (Photo by Dave Rushen / SOPA Images/Sipa USA)
RETRANSMITTING CORRECTING THE INFORMATION ABOUT THE PROJECT FUNDING. Conservator Nigel Larkin begins work to dismantle a 40ft juvenile North Atlantic whale skeleton, the largest artefact within the Hull Maritime Museum's collection. (Photo by Danny Lawson/PA Images via Getty Images)
LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - OCTOBER 19, 2020: Hundreds of hospitality workers take part in a demonstration in Parliament Square against the lack of scientific evidence behind the new coronavirus restrictions imposed by the government, such as the mandatory 10pm curfew, and a lack of sector-specific financial support for businesses in tier 2 areas, on 19 October, 2020 in London, England. Hospitality, which is the UKs third biggest industry and accounts for 10% of the nations employment, has been heavilly impacted by the restrictions with 100,000 jobs lost in the last three months.- PHOTOGRAPH BY Wiktor Szymanowicz / Barcroft Studios / Future Publishing (Photo credit should read Wiktor Szymanowicz/Barcroft Media via Getty Images)
Runners and riders circle at the start for The Follow Plumpton Racecourse On Instagram Novices' Hurdle at Plumpton Racecourse. (Photo by Alan Crowhurst/PA Images via Getty Images)
Covid-19 survivor Geoffrey McKillop. (Photo by Liam McBurney/PA Images via Getty Images)
Staff from Chopstix Noodle Bar hand out food parcels from a WWII tracked vehicle to self-isolating students from Manchester Metropolitan University at Cambridge Halls, part of the All Saints students living accommodation blocks, in Manchester. (Photo by Peter Byrne/PA Images via Getty Images)
A man cycles past anti-lockdown graffiti in Manchester, England, Monday, Oct. 19, 2020 as the row over Greater Manchester region's coronavirus status continues. Britain’s government says discussions about implementing stricter restrictions in Greater Manchester must be completed Monday because the public health threat caused by rising COVID-19 infections is serious and getting worse. (Peter Byrne/PA via AP)
A digital display above a dual carriageway calls on residents to follow coronavirus guidlines in Manchester, northwest England as the country battles a surge in coronavirus cases on October 19, 2020 (Photo by Paul ELLIS / AFP) (Photo by PAUL ELLIS/AFP via Getty Images)
Tottenham's Gareth Bale during the English Premier League soccer match between Tottenham Hotspur and West Ham United at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London, England, Sunday, Oct. 18, 2020. (Neill Hall/Pool via AP)
LONGFIELD, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 18: (L-R) Lee Jackson of Kawasaki - Rapid Fulfillment team and Andrew Irwin of Honda Racing ride during the penultimate round of the Bennetts British Superbike Championship at Brands Hatch on October 18, 2020 in Longfield, England. (Photo by Ker Robertson/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 18: Demonstrators at the candlelight procession to remember victims of SARS and those assaulted by Nigeria Police gather at Trafalgar Square on October 18, 2020 in London, England. They echo the ongoing #EndSARS protest movement against Nigeria's Special Anti-Robbery Squad, whose officers have been accused of indiscriminate arrests, extortion, and extrajudicial killings. Nigeria's President Muhammadu Buhari recently disbanded the force, replacing it with a new division named SWAT (Special Weapons and Tactics), but the makeover has not placated the protesters. (Photo by Joseph Okpako/Getty Images)
BOREHAMWOOD, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 18: Becky Spencer of Tottenham Hotspur during the Barclays FA Women's Super League match between Arsenal Women and Tottenham Hotspur Women at Meadow Park on October 18, 2020 in Borehamwood, England. (Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)

Lord Wood said that the controversial clause was included in the Bill as a reassurance mechanism for hardline Brexiteers.

"It was signalling, don't worry that if you don't like things that we may have to agree, because ultimately there will be legislative provision that ultimately override things we don't like," he told the committee.

"It's an insurance policy to the Conservative backbenchers."

However, Baroness Couttie disagreed, saying that she suspects negotiations between both sides got "quite fraught".

"Someone in the negotiations made some comment about their ability to behave vexatiously and use the joint committee to block goods from Great Britain into Northern Ireland as a negotiating threat," she added.

"The British Government's response to that was Clause 5. They are viewing it as a safety net."

Read Full Story Click here to comment