North East Herts MP rebels on latest Brexit vote while others back breaking international law

PUBLISHED: 08:31 16 September 2020 | UPDATED: 10:56 16 September 2020

North East Herts MP Sir Oliver Heald.

North East Herts MP Sir Oliver Heald.

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North East Herts MP Sir Oliver Heald has said he finds breaking international law “unacceptable” following a Brexit vote in the Commons on Monday which saw him rebel from the party line.

Conservative MPs Stephen McPartland for Stevenage, Bim Afolami for Hitchin and Harpenden, Sir Oliver Heald for North East Herts, Nadine Dorries, Central Beds and Richard Ruller North East Beds. Picture: HM GovermentConservative MPs Stephen McPartland for Stevenage, Bim Afolami for Hitchin and Harpenden, Sir Oliver Heald for North East Herts, Nadine Dorries, Central Beds and Richard Ruller North East Beds. Picture: HM Goverment

MPs voted on Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Internal Market Bill, which includes provisions that are needed after transition, and also overrides the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement – breaking international law.

The MP has an amendment – tabled for next week – down with fellow MP Sir Bob Neill, which would seek to change the part of the bill that is illegal.

Meanwhile, Stevenage MP Stephen McPartland, Hitchin and Harpenden’s Bim Afolami, Mid Beds MP Nadine Dorries and Richard Fuller, MP for North East Bed, all voted for the bill.

Sir Oliver told this newspaper: “My abstention means that I cannot support the bill without amendment. I have also discussed this with the Prime Minister.

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“It is important that we have measures in place to run the UK internal market so I support that aspect of the bill. However, I do have concerns about part 5, because for our country to break its word and breach international law is just not something that we do.

“Britain stands as a rule of law country that is respected across the world for its stance. It is right that all three Prime Ministers I served under have come out with grave concerns about this bill and the point I am concerned about.

“Margaret Thatcher herself — she was a barrister — made clear how important the point is, often saying that democracy is not enough without a love of liberty and respect for the rule of law.

“I am therefore hoping that the discussions going on at the moment can be successful. I am pressing the government and the EU, as much as I can, saying, ‘come on, let’s get an agreement’, because breaking international law would be the last thing we want to do.

“I support the amendment tabled by the chairman of the Justice Committee, my honourable friend Sir Robert Neill, which says that if we come to the point where the negotiations have failed, all is lost and this country really must contemplate ​breaking international law, then so be it, but that day is not today and we should give the negotiations more time.”

Labour’s amendment to block the Bill from receiving a second reading was defeated by 349 votes to 213, giving the government a majority of 136.

On the actual bill, the government won by 340 votes to 263 votes. Two Tory MPs voted against the government with 29 abstaining or not voting.


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