The Brexit focus moves to London this week as MPs debate Boris Johnson’s move to change Northern Ireland’s special trade status.
The focus is back on the London parliament in Westminster – scene of all that political drama in spring 2019. Boris Johnson’s controversial Internal Market Bill, which breaks the international treaty with the EU called the Withdrawal Agreement, goes before MPs for the first time today.
The full scale of the internal opposition to Mr Johnson’s move will be seen. All five living former UK prime ministers, two from Labour and three from his own Conservative Party, have denounced the legislation. His own former attorney general, Geoffrey Cox, has also castigated the move.
Up to 20 Conservative MPs appear ready to back an amendment removing the Northern Ireland clauses. Others are threatening to abstain.
But Mr Johnson has the numbers, with a majority of about 80 MPs – so this law will march on. Later this week we will hear of opposition from Scotland and Wales, who say the new law is “a power grab” by Mr Johnson.
The three-party Coalition will keep up the public moral pressure on Mr Johnson and London. After a busy weekend on UK and international media, Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney redoubled his criticisms of Mr Johnson’s new law again today.
Mr Coveney bluntly argued that if the UK can break a deal with the EU so easily, how can other trading partners trust them in future? But all eyes for these few days will be on the London parliament.
EU leaders had a busy weekend criticising the UK’s move, with Michel Barnier again to the fore. EU leaders are determined the UK draft law must be withdrawn by the end of this month.
Meanwhile, Brussels officials are ramping up no-deal Brexit preparations ahead of the December 31 deadline for an end to the EU-UK transition trade regime. Otherwise, the normal work agenda is proceeding but the focus here is also on London.
EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen is preparing her landmark ‘State of the Union’ speech, due to be delivered to the European Parliament on Wednesday. Irish politicians will listen carefully to what she has to say about Brexit and Covid-19 aid measures.
Later today, the European Parliament is expected to say when and how ratification hearings will be held for Ireland’s new Commissioner-designate, Mairead McGuinness. The gruelling public inquisitions are likely at the end of this month or in early October. Ireland needs a voice at the EU Commission table immediately.