Ed Miliband delivered a blistering performance on his return to the despatch box today.
Standing in for Sir Keir Starmer the former Labour leader steamrollered the PM’s law-breaking Brexit plan.
In one jaw dropping moment, the Prime Minister was offered the chance to defend his bill.
When Mr Johnson failed to do so, Mr Miliband said: “He didn’t read the protocol, he hasn’t read the Bill, he doesn’t know his stuff.”
Imagine surviving Covid only to get murdered by a Miliband pic.twitter.com/ktMvCV7JN2— James Felton (@JimMFelton) September 14, 2020
Johnson was back in parliament to defend his controversial plan to allow ministers to tear up the Brexit divorce deal by suggesting the European Union was being unreasonable and failing to negotiate in good faith.
The Prime Minister insisted the legislation, which would put the UK in breach of international law by breaking the terms of the treaty signed with Brussels, was a necessary “legal safety net” to protect the relationship between Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
As he sought to quell a growing Tory revolt over the measures, he claimed that passing the legislation would strengthen the hand of negotiators trying to strike a trade deal with the EU.
In an effort to reassure Conservative MPs, Mr Johnson said the measures contained in the Bill to set aside parts of the Brexit deal were an “insurance policy” that he hoped would “never be invoked” if an agreement was reached with Brussels.
And he promised that if it was necessary for the powers to be used, MPs would be given a vote on the regulations.
Internal Market Bill
The Internal Market Bill sets out the way that trade within the UK will work once outside the EU’s single market and customs union.
All the living former prime ministers have voiced concern over the potential breach of international law, while ex-attorney general Geoffrey Cox and former chancellor Sajid Javid have added to high-profile Conservative criticism of the measure.
Mr Johnson, taking the unusual step of opening the debate on the legislation in the Commons, accused the EU of going to “extreme and unreasonable lengths” over the Northern Ireland Protocol which he said could lead to “blockading food and agriculture transports within our own country”.
The measures, contained in the deal negotiated and championed by the Prime Minister last year, were designed to prevent a hard border on the island of Ireland by keeping Northern Ireland closely aligned with EU customs rules.
The Prime Minister told MPs: “In recent months the EU has suggested that it is willing to go to extreme and unreasonable lengths using the Northern Ireland Protocol in a way that goes well beyond common sense simply to exert leverage against the UK in our negotiations for a free trade agreement.”
He warned that the EU could seek to act in other “absurd ways”, slapping tariffs on trade between Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
Mr Johnson said that “if they fail to negotiate in good faith” the UK must introduce a “package of protective powers”.
Related: Britain’s Brexit ‘negotiating tactic’ has backfired – Leo Varadkar