Controversial measures which tear up parts of the Brexit divorce agreement will not return to the Commons until the end of November at the earliest.
Peers, including dozens of senior Tories, voted to strip controversial clauses from the UK Internal Market Bill that would enable ministers to set aside key parts of the Withdrawal Agreement signed with the European Union, breaking an international treaty.
The Government has said that it still wants the measures, which have soured relations with the EU and the US president-elect Joe Biden, and MPs would be asked to put them back in the legislation.
But by delaying until the end of November, Boris Johnson will know whether progress has been made on a UK-EU trade deal which could take the heat out of the row with Brussels.
On Monday night the Government suffered a 268-vote defeat over one element of the Bill, with 44 rebels including former Tory leader Lord Howard of Lympne, ex-Brexit minister Lord Bridges of Headley and former chief whip Lord Young of Cookham.
But Downing Street said the measures represented a “legal safety net” to ensure free-flowing trade between Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “We have been consistently clear that the clauses represent a legal safety net to protect the integrity of the UK’s internal market and the huge gains of the peace process.
“And we expect the House of Lords to recognise that we have an obligation to the people of Northern Ireland, to make sure that they continue to have unfettered access to the UK under all circumstances.”
He added: “We will re-table these clauses when the Bill returns to the Commons.”
It’s for UK Parl to legislate as it sees fit. But understand, if UK passes law designed to break International Law, WI & Protocol, then there will be no trade deal. EU cannot ratify a new deal while U.K. is legislating to break a previous agreement. Trust & Good Faith Matters. https://t.co/OyS0Qw2csf
— Simon Coveney (@simoncoveney) November 9, 2020
Irish foreign minister Simon Coveney said, if the UK passed measures “designed to break international law”, then “there will be no trade deal” between the UK and EU.
The EU “cannot ratify a new deal while UK is legislating to break a previous agreement”, he said.
“Trust and good faith matters”.
The Prime Minister’s stance is unlikely to improve relations with incoming US president Mr Biden.
The president-elect, who has Irish ancestry, warned during his successful campaign against Donald Trump that a future UK-US trade deal with the US was “contingent” on the prevention of a return to a hard border on the island of Ireland.
We can’t allow the Good Friday Agreement that brought peace to Northern Ireland to become a casualty of Brexit.
Any trade deal between the U.S. and U.K. must be contingent upon respect for the Agreement and preventing the return of a hard border. Period. https://t.co/Ecu9jPrcHL
— Joe Biden (@JoeBiden) September 16, 2020
Mr Biden warned the Good Friday Agreement cannot “become a casualty of Brexit”.
The EU wants a trade deal with the UK to be reached by mid-November in order to allow time for it to be ratified by the end of the year, when transition arrangements expire.
Brussels’ negotiator Michel Barnier is holding talks in London this week with his counterpart Lord Frost.