British House of Lords Rejects Changes to the Brexit Agreement
With the Single Market Act, Prime Minister Boris Johnson wants to overturn the regulations on Northern Ireland. Parliamentarians see this as a threat to peace in Northern Ireland.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson suffered a defeat in the British House of Lords in the battle over his controversial Single Market law. The House of Lords voted 433 to 165 to remove certain conditions from the bill. With the law, Johnson tries to overturn the regulations on Northern Ireland in the Brexit treaty with the EU.
A first vote on the law in October was similarly clear. Several MPs argued that the law was jeopardizing peace in Northern Ireland and damaging Britain's international standing in the world. "The government should see it, accept the repeal of these offensive clauses and start to rebuild our international reputation," stated Angela Smith, leader of the opposition Labor Party in the House of Lords. Mr. Johnson does not have a majority in the chamber for his plans.
A government spokesman announced after the vote of the House of Lords that the bill, including the controversial Northern Ireland regulations, should be re-introduced to the House of Commons. In this chamber, Mr. Johnson relies on a solid majority. But this move threatens a stalemate between the two houses of parliament, which could last beyond the deadline for negotiations between the EU and Great Britain. Ultimately, however, the House of Lords, the unelected House of Lords, cannot prevent the law from coming into force.
Negotiations on trade agreements stall
According to Johnson, the Single Market Act should serve as a safety net in the event that the ongoing negotiations with the EU do not reach a final settlement on trade in goods between Great Britain, the British province of Northern Ireland and across the open border with the EU member Ireland. The law would give the government in London the opportunity to overturn the regulation enshrined in the Brexit Treaty, according to which EU customs rules will continue to apply in the British Northern Ireland.
Johnson's government openly admitted that the unilateral amendment to the Brexit treaty violated international law. The move is controversial in Johnson's own party. The EU Commission initiated infringement proceedings against Great Britain because of the law at the beginning of October. This can lead to a lawsuit before the European Court of Justice, which could impose heavy fines on the UK.
Mr. Johnson is confident that even if he fails to secure the treaty with the EU, he can have arrangements like Australia. Many politicians of both sides are repeating it with confidence. However, Australia does not have any arrangements with the EU but has to negotiate trade conditions with every single member. But this fact has yet to be introduced to the public debate in the UK where former Prime Minister Tony Abbott is one of the leading authorities as a trade advisor. Mr. Abbot has been one of those who popularised the phrase "Australia deal" without explaining what it really means.
Great Britain left the EU at the end of January. However, it will remain in the EU internal market and in the customs union until the end of the year. Both sides wanted to use this time to strike a trade agreement. But the talks have barely progressed for months. Without an agreement by the end of the year, there is a risk of a hard cut in trade relations with hardly foreseeable economic consequences.
Although politicians like to simplify the complex truths and portray their failures as achievement, the media should help taxpayers to understand reality.
Mr. Johnson, his Tories, and friends, including former Prime Minister Tony Abbott, often claim that there is always a solution if Brexit will not work out. The name of this supposed solution is "Australia-like arrangements".
What is it?
According to the European Commission, so far Australia and the EU have been conducting their trade and economic relations under the 2008 EU-Australian Partnership Framework.
The framework signed on December 29, 2012, by Prime Minister Julia Gillard government, facilitates trade in industrial products by reducing technical barriers. It creates mutual recognition of conformity assessment procedures. The outcome of the framework is the reduction in the cost of testing and certifying exports and imports.
It is not an agreement like the United Kingdom enjoyed being an EU member. One needs to remember that proponents of Brexit have argued that Britain can leave political agreements but preserve the status of the Single Market Member. It would mean a waiver of the customs and tariffs for British exports to 27 member states.
Australia's exporters do not have such privileges. The framework, although sometimes called an agreement, can not match the status of the United Kingdom on the European markets before the Brexit.