The House of Lords has voted down another two provisions of the controversial Internal Market Bill that would have allowed London to reduce powers of the devolved administrations and amend it with little Parliament oversight.
The peers voted 367 to 209 on Wednesday to reject an amendment that would allow Westminster to unilaterally impose rules and standards for the goods and services to let them flow freely across all four parts of the UK, while bypassing the views of the devolved governments in Cardiff, Edinburgh and Belfast.
Instead, the lords supported strengthening the role of the very same devolved administrations. Crossbench peer Baroness Finlay of Llandaff argued that the bill proposed by London would “shackle the ability of the elected parliaments in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to find their own solutions to the problems we face."
Westminster previously argued it sought to make regulations the same across all the four home countries, to make the internal market borderless. Currently, many regulations and standards that affect trade in particular, like animal welfare, are regulated at the EU level. Following the transition period, they would end up in the hands of the devolved governments.
In a separate vote, the peers also rejected another provision by 327 to 223 that would allow the government to tweak the Internal Market Bill at some point in the future with little parliamentary scrutiny.
The votes come a week after the House of Lords struck down the most controversial parts of the hotly-debated bill that would allow the government to override parts of the Brexit withdrawal agreement it signed in January.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government maintained that the bill was aimed at ensuring free trade between the UK’s four constituent parts, including Northern Ireland, which has a border with the Republic of Ireland that is a part of the EU.
The provisions that their critics said would see the UK violating international law by breaking the withdrawal agreement have faced fierce opposition from the EU earlier. Still, the bill was passed by the House of Commons in late September, only to run into opposition in the Lords, where Johnson’s government lacks majority support.
After the peers finish debating the bill, it would return to the House of Commons that would then decide whether to accept or reject the Lords’ amendments. In case the two houses get stuck in a stalemate, the government could invoke a legislation known as the Parliament Act, dating back to 1911. It would give primacy to the Commons decision.
The act was already used by Tony Blair's government back in 2004, to enforce a ban on fox and deer hunting. So far, Boris Johnson’s government vowed to “re-table” the provisions rejected by the House of Lords as soon as the bill gets back to the House of Commons.
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