Liz Truss could face Lords rebellion over hated Brexit deal bill

Truss warned EU will ‘retaliate’ against hated Brexit deal

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Liz Truss could face a rebellion from the House of Lords over proposed legislation to rip up part of the Brexit arrangements for Northern Ireland. Concerns are being raised that the controversial legislation would give ministers “dictatorial” powers to write and pass laws without scrutiny. Around 50 Conservative, Labour and cross party peers are set to meet this morning to discuss how they can amend or halt the Northern Ireland Protocol that passed through the House of Commons earlier this summer.

The peers will be receiving advice from legal and constitutional experts on what options may be available to them, including strategies for possibly delaying the bill or using a process that could force it to completely collapse.

The bill, which was first tabled by the new Prime Minister when she was Foreign Secretary, won’t be debated in the Lords until the second week of October at the earliest.

There are also hopes this could be pushed back further to give the UK and EU a chance to agree on a negotiated solution over the Brexit row.

But fears are growing among peers over the ministerial powers the bill as it currently stands would give ministers to introduce new laws as long as they deem them “appropriate”.

One told the Guardian: “My concern is not so much the Brexit issue, but the constitutional issue. The Henry VIII powers are extraordinary here.

“In my view we would turn the country into an elected dictatorship rather than a parliamentary democracy and I don’t use those words lightly.”

They added: “What is happening here is Parliament is going to give a carte blanche to any minister to do whatever they want to do without any explanation, including breaking international law”.

Another peer warned there is “great unhappiness” among some Conservative party peers “and in the main opposition” benches over the prospect of “weakening” parliamentary control.

They added: “We do need to be very careful here that we are not ripping up international treaties” adding that it would be “very very unwise not to have some element of parliamentary inspection”.

Number 10 sources have defended the bill, arguing it applies to a very select group of rules, which they feel must be changed without first going through the European Union.

But doubts are being expressed about clauses stating “a minister of the crown may, by regulations, make any provision which the minister considers appropriate in connection with the Northern Ireland protocol”.

Katy Hayward, professor of sociology at Queens university and an expert on the protocol said: “The super Henry VIII powers confer upon ministers a licence to legislate far beyond the scope of the protocol.

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“If the Government’s intention is to use these powers merely to make technical adjustments, why are they so broad and open-ended?”

A Government spokesperson said the powers in the bill are “restricted” and can only be used in connection with certain provisions, such as changing VAT rules in Northern Ireland and are “necessary” to deliver arrangements such as green and red lanes for trucks.

They said: “Our preference has always been to find a negotiated solution to the issues of the protocol, but we need to act to protect the Belfast Good Friday Agreement.

“Our legislation avoids a hard border, protects the integrity of the UK and safeguards the EU single market.”

The EU has repeatedly expressed its anger at the UK pressing ahead with the legislation and has threatened retaliatory action, but the possibility of Britain re-entering talks still remains.

Ms Truss will meet European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen as part of a series of meetings with leading political figures on the fringes of the United Nations General Assembly in New York.

She will also meet US President Joe Biden, with the White House saying he will urge the Prime Minister to work with the EU to resolve tensions around the post-Brexit trading arrangements in Northern Ireland.

The Conservative Party leader met with Irish leader Micheal Martin at 10 Downing Street on Sunday morning, with both agreeing that an opportunity for a new attempt at talks still remains.

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