Andrew Marr slams Labour refusal to back Brexit bill as Barnier’s threat poses ‘real risk’

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Labour shadow minister Rachel Reeves has confirmed if the UK Government does not remove controversial clauses that break international law from their new Brexit legislation, then the Opposition party will not vote for it. This comes after leader Sir Keir Starmer published a piece in the Sunday Telegraph urging the Government to fix the “substantial cross-party concerns” raised about the Internal Market Bill. However, Andrew Marr took Ms Reeves to task on his BBC show over the implications of the refusal considering new threats from EU Chief Negotiator Michel Barnier.

He asked: “Do you accept that this third country listing, which Michel Barnier is withholding at the moment, would stop goods travelling freely from Great Britain into Northern Ireland?

“It would divide up the UK going forward, and that is a real risk to this country.”

A ‘third-country listing’ grant is needed to export animal products to the EU.

Mr Barnier said “more clarity” was needed about Britain’s own hygiene and disease control procedures before an “assessment” could take place.

There are concerns that the EU could withhold the licence as retaliation for compromising the withdrawal agreement.

This would block UK good exports and so threaten much of the country’s industry.

Ms Reeves told the BBC: “I think there is posturing on both sides from the British Government, who are seeking to renege on an international treaty, but also from the European Union.

“I would urge both sides to stop the posturing and get back to the negotiating table and take this seriously.”

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She added: “Frankly citizens both in the UK and across Europe are pretty fed up when their Government should be focusing on protecting citizens against the pandemic.

“Instead they’re squabbling about the details of things that have already been signed up to.”

The UK’s negotiating team has expressed surprise at the threat from the EU.

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A Government spokesman said: “The right to export is the absolute basis for a relationship between two countries that trade agricultural goods.

“It is a licence to export and entirely separate from the issue of food standards. It would be very unusual for the EU to go down this route and deny the UK listing.”

The new bill will have a second reading in the House of Commons next week.

Number 10 has said that it is still committed to implementing the withdrawal agreement.

Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis claims that the legislation is just about guaranteeing unfettered access for Northern Ireland.

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