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Artillery Row

No Finance Bill bad news for Brexiteers

Without a Finance Bill, the UK has ever decreasing options to avoid implementing the EU Withdrawal Agreement

Today the Prime Minister’s official spokesman suggested there were no current plans to introduce a Finance Bill.

If true, that’s bad news for the ERG because it means it is now very likely the UK will implement the Withdrawal Agreement at the end of the year.

Barring a recall of Parliament, there is one or perhaps two weeks No.10 can introduce the Finance Bill if they hope to pass it into law before 1 January, and a failure to do so means the UK will be left with only minimal powers to edit the Withdrawal Agreement and all the associated issues with Northern Ireland, whether or not a trade deal is struck.

The Finance Bill was promised by the Government to ERG MPs who argue it is essential to give the UK legal powers to resolve a number of outstanding issues at-risk goods, VAT, and the issue the PM raised of supermarket supply chains – the so-called “sausage war”.

The ERG are so opposed to the Withdrawal Agreement because they say it effectively gives Northern Ireland to the Republic of Ireland and opens the UK to violations of sovereignty on issues like State Aid.

Andrew Bridgen MP said: “If the trade negotiations fail then the Government must bring in an emergency Finance bill to prevent the EU enforcing tariffs between NI and the rest of the UK”.

It’s possible that in the absence of a trade deal the Government could just denounce the Withdrawal Agreement as void, but this approach risks far more condemnation than the outraged response to Brandon Lewis’s admission that the UK Internal Market Bill (which is still not law yet) broke International Law in a “limited and specific way”.

Up until now ERG MPs have trusted the Government’s private reassurances that the Withdrawal Agreement would be neutered by legislation in Westminster but it seems barring the EU freely agreeing to cancel a large part of the Withdrawal Agreement, businesses in Northern Ireland must prepare to be cut off, to a likely ever greater extent, from their biggest trading partner as a trade border is erected inside the UK in the Irish Sea.

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