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Back me over the Brexit bill: UK PM tells MPs

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has urged MPs of the ruling Conservative Party to back his plan to override part of the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement, a media report said on Saturday.

The Internal Market Bill, which will be formally debated in the House of Commons for the first time on Monday, addresses the Northern Ireland Protocol – the part of the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement designed to prevent a hard border returning to the island of Ireland, the BBC reported.

If it becomes a law it would give UK ministers powers to modify or “disapply” rules relating to the movement of goods between Britain and Northern Ireland that will come into force from January 1, if the UK and European Union (EU) are unable to strike a trade deal.

The EU says the planned changes must be scrapped or they risk jeopardising the trade talks between the two sides.

But the government has rejected this demand, arguing the measures in the bill are needed to protect the integrity of the UK and the peace process in Northern Ireland.

In a Zoom call with the MPs on Friday, the Prime Minister called for “overwhelming support” for the bill, describing it as “absolutely vital” to “prevent a foreign or international body from having the power to break up our country”.

Johnson added that he would not countenance “the threat of a border down the Irish Sea”.

But he said there was still a “very good chance” of the UK and EU striking a deal by mid-October.

The Prime Minister added that the party must not return to “miserable squabbling” over Europe.

On Saturday, Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove told the that he believed the government had the support of Conservative MPs to pass the controversial bill, but added “we are reaching a crunch moment”.

On Friday in a written statement to the House of Commons, Gove reiterated the government’s commitment to implementing the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement, including the protocol covering Northern Ireland.

The bill is expected to face a strong opposition on the unelected House of Lords where a number of peers have already expressed their displeasure against it.

The Times reported on Friday that at least 30 Conservative MPs have threatened to rebel against the bill when it goes before parliament.

Despite the dispute over the internal market bill, both the EU and the UK have agreed to meet next week in Brussels to continue discussions on a new trade pact which is expected to come into operation on January 1, 2021 after a Brexit transition period comes to an end.

EU officials said the talks will go ahead even though they are expected to be challenging.

The UK ended its EU membership on January 31 but is still following EU rules during the transition period until December 31.

Unless a trade deal is agreed by the end of this year, the UK will have to trade with the EU under the World Trade Organization terms.