UK government backs down on internal market bill in event of EU-Brexit deal

Watch: Boris Johnson offers olive branch to EU ahead of phone call to break Brexit trade talks deadlock

Boris Johnson has given the European Union an olive branch, offering to drop contentious clauses in the UK internal market bill if a trade deal is agreed.

The UK government has formally offered to withdraw or deactivate parts of the bill that would allow it to override aspects of the Brexit withdrawal agreement if it reaches an accord with the EU this week.

The pound against the US dollar (GBPUSD=X) rebounded from falling off a cliff this morning, following the news:

Chart: Yahoo Finance
Chart: Yahoo Finance

In a statement from the prime minister’s office, it said: “Discussions continue to progress and final decisions are expected in the coming days. If the solutions being considered in those discussions are agreed, the UK government would be prepared to remove clause 44 of the UK Internal Market Bill, concerning export declarations.

“The UK government would also be prepared to deactivate clauses 45 and 47, concerning state aid, such that they could be used only when consistent with the United Kingdom’s rights and obligations under international law.”

It added: “Good progress continues to be made regarding the decision as to which goods are 'at risk' of entering the EU market. Talks continue this afternoon. In the light of those discussions, the government will keep under review the content of the forthcoming Taxation Bill.”

The internal market bill has faced heavy criticism for breaking international law. It enables ministers to ignore certain requirements concerning Northern Ireland as set out in a Brexit deal signed last year.

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As part of the divorce deal, London and Brussels agreed to set up a joint committee to determine which goods were likely to enter the EU Single Market through the Republic of Ireland via Northern Ireland.

Under the terms, companies moving goods from Northern Ireland to Great Britain would have to fill out export declaration forms, but ministers could overrule this option.

The bill, which was initially passed by MPs, would also allow ministers to reinterpret rules on the financial support the government gives to businesses in Northern Ireland.

It has been subject to a number of amendments over the last year, including the House of Lords removing clauses that allowed ministers to ignore the withdrawal agreement.

Michael Gove was in Brussels on Monday, meeting his counterpart vice-president Sefcovic to discuss the Northern Ireland protocol and its implementation after the EU transition period ends on 31 December.

READ MORE: Britain and EU resume Brexit talks as negotiations enter 11th hour

EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier has spoken previously on the bill, warning that the clauses would lead to a breakdown in trust in trade deal negotiations.

The House of Commons will volte on the Internal Markets Bill on Monday night.

The news comes amid earlier reports that Boris Johnson was threatening to pull out of Brexit talks with the EU “within hours.”

Brexit negotiators resumed 11th hour talks over the weekend as time ticks away for the EU and UK to bridge some significant differences ahead of the end of the transition period.

Discussions had previously stalled over three of the most contentious issues for both sides — fisheries, ensuring fair competition guarantees and ways to solve future disputes. Neither side has been ready to concede on these sticking points.

Boris Johnson is also speaking to president of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen today to iron out disagreements and make a final push to get a post-Brexit trade deal.

Watch: What happens if no Brexit trade deal is struck?