House of Commons passes bill partly overriding Brexit deal
Despite the objections of prominent members of the Conservative Party, a government bill in favour of new single market legislation passed its first reading in the House of Commons on Monday with a comfortable majority. The government wants to prevent controls of goods passing between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK provided for in the 2019 agreement. Does this mean a no-deal Brexit is unavoidable?
Allergic to Europe
For Italy's former Deputy Foreign Minister Marta Dassù the decision is a breach of trust. She writes in La Repubblica:
“Tory hardliners really have nothing against no deal. They are allergic to any kind of coercion regarding Europe, and are convinced that Britain can and must regain its identity as a global sovereign power. That is a scenario that Boris Johnson likes to flirt with. The UK Internal Market Bill which has just been introduced provides the government with the power to 'disregard' parts of the Northern Ireland Protocol. With it, the British government is raising the stakes in trade negotiations while making them even more difficult by undermining existing agreements. Can London still be trusted?”
Let he who never breaks the law cast the first stone
Britain is not the only country to disregard international agreements when it considers it opportune, writes The Daily Telegraph in defence of Boris Johnson's initiative:
“China ignores WTO rules and manipulates its currency. The same is true of the EU, to the benefit of Germany and France in particular. Russia and China flout political borders, just look at Crimea and Hong Kong. Even the United States ignores norms when it suits, take Guantanamo Bay and the defunding of the WTO and WHO. The EU have also flagrantly ignored the provisions of the Withdrawal Treaty, not negotiated in good faith and have shown no intention of delivering a free trade arrangement.”
No-deal Brexit means Brexit not done
For all his bluster Johnson can't afford a stop in talks with Brussels, says The Financial Times:
“As long as Brexit's ultimate state is not settled it can be reopened. This is why, for all the blowhard rhetoric, Mr Johnson still needs a free trade deal with the EU. If the transition period ends without even a bare bones deal, as many fear it will, then Mr Johnson is risking his whole project. Brexit underpins everything he is doing. It need not be seen as an instant success, but it cannot be seen as a disaster. ... A no-deal end to transition means Brexit is not actually 'done'. It gives the opposition a line of attack and means that Brexit's final shape is still up for grabs.”
Is coronavirus changing risk perception?
The pandemic could also have played a role in the fact that so many MPs in London are seriously considering such a U-turn, columnist Ferruccio de Bortoli explains in Corriere del Ticino:
“Until recently, the possibility of a 'no deal' seemed to be the classic 'black swan'. In other words, an abyss that suddenly opens up before the eyes of governments and markets. In the face of a far more devastating 'black swan' that has cost so many lives, the British divorce has been downgraded to a simple management event. ... Perhaps this changed perception of risks is at the heart of the British government's decision to use the Internal Market Bill being discussed in the House of Commons to override the agreement reached with Brussels on 24 January 2020.”