Ian Dunt Profile picture
14 Sep, 222 tweets, 27 min read
Alright. Fuck knows why I'm doing this, but I'm going to live tweet tonight's Commons debate. God help me.
If you're not interested in in the internal market bill & the end of Britain's commitment to international law, then for heaven's sake mute this thread now. Cos this fucker is going to run. Vote will be at 10pm tonight.
This won't be like the old days of Brexit votes. Back then there were knife edge votes and decent amendments passed by seriously smart strategic thinkers. We've got none of that today.
Before I start wittering on about it, can I suggest you follow people like @woodstockjag @ThimontJack @CSBarnard24 @RuthFox01 & @Brigid_Fowler, all of whom know far more abut this kind of stuff than me.
Alright here's the bill. Godawful thing.
The key bit is Part Five, on the Northern Ireland (NI) Protocol, particularly clauses 41, 42, 43 & 45.
Most important clauses are: 43.2 - powers in the bill can 'disapply' or 'modify' Article 10 of the NI Protocol.
45.1 - provisions have effect 'notwithstanding any relevant international law'.
45.2 - regulations won't be regarded as unlawful on the grounds of incompatibility with international or domestic law.
In other words - doesn't matter what else we've signed, this shit takes precedence. We're passing a law to say that breaking the law is not breaking the law.
As @davidallengreen said here, in this v.useful video explainer, these provisions are not "specific and limited". They in fact refer to all regulations made under this part of the bill.
The bill is allowing ministers to pass whatever they want in this area, regardless of whether it breaks the law. It's a general right to break the law, not a specific one.
That sounds bad. It is bad. But it actually gets worse from there.
There's an argument that the bill in and of itself, if it becomes law, breaks international law, regardless of whether the powers it authorises are used.
When we were in the EU, certain areas of EU law had direct effect and were supreme over UK law (ie on trade). Then we left, so that stopped. But Article 4 of the withdrawal agreement (the deal with the EU) switched them on again in respect of the withdrawal agreement.
The internal market bill (IM bill) turns them off again in respect of the NI Protocol. Lawyers are divided on whether this in itself is enough to constitute a breach, or if the powers have to be used. But at least one I spoke to said they thought it was.
Then there are the powers themselves - the regulations ministers can pass which break the law.
This is where it gets really quite grim. The powers in the bill are split into two periods. First the 'interim' period, and then six months later the rest of it.
The powers ministers have are called statutory instruments (SIs). These are powers which turn ministers into little mini-parliaments, able to pass law without having to consult MPs very extensively.
But there are different kinds. In the interim period, ministers can pass regulation using something called 'made affirmative'. After that six month period, it's under 'draft affirmative'.
'Draft affirmative' means you need parliamentary approval before you do it. 'Made affirmative' means that the regulation comes into force immediately, without parliament being consulted.
Any regulations made under 'made affirmative' have effect for 40 days unless they're annulled. But even if they are anulled, the minister can simply pass them again.
That's the really gross thing. Not only are the powers very general. But ministers can simply do it, without consulting parliament at all. And any post-hoc annulment by parliament doesn't stop them just passing them again again.
I know it's a bit complex, but what it amounts to is the most brazen and far-reaching extension of executive power I've seen in a piece of UK legislation. The govt is free to break domestic or international law and doesn't even need parliament's authorisation when it does it.
Which brings us to Bob Neill's amendment, and specifically why he bothered. It's on page five here publications.parliament.uk/pa/bills/cbill…
Basically it requires that parliament approve the commencement procedure - the moment the powers come into force. So it's a further parliamentary 'lock' on the powers.
But once that lock is opened, all the powers come into force. I mean, good on you for trying mate, and thanks for being on the side of the angels. But what the fuck is the point of that?
If the bill passes, MPs will have accepted the principle that ministers can break the law. That's the reality of it. So on what basis would they ever vote against doing it in the particular circumstances in which they find themelves? None that I can imagine.
Politically, it just seems entirely redundant. And honestly, I do not understand why the government does not just accept it. That's how ineffectual it is.
If it was the May administration, I think they would have accepted it at about 8:45pm tonight, just at the perfect moment so that they would look ineffectual and without principle, doing maximum damage to themselves.
I do kind of still expect the Johnson administration to do the same. But it will be an interesting litmus test. If they don't back this amendment, it suggests they've gone full death-metal no-surrender fuck-you-and-the-horse-you-rode-in-on with this thing.
Right, that's all I have to say about that. Will pop back when the debate starts.
And we're off. Starmer's amendment has been selected. This doesn't really matter but I'll go into why later. For now, the PM is up.
PM: House should act to preserve crucial British achievement of last three centuries. Not the rule of law. Hah, fuck no - free trade within UK.
Course if you really cared about that it might not have been sensible to piss it away on a deal you were celebrating a few short months ago. But whatever.
We're already on full GCSE history essay mode, the invisible hand of the market within the country and all that. He spent second before talking shite.
"The manifesto on which this govt was elected last year promised business in NI 'unfettered access to the rest of the UK'."
Interesting moment there. Johnson thinks he might have a problem with the Salisbury convention, which blocks the Lords from voting against legislation implementing the government's manifesto commitments. This seems to fit as it goes against the promise to pass the deal.
So Johnson cutting out the bits which suit him to discourage that analysis. He is using the lies he told in December to constitutionally protect the lies he is telling now.
Continues to rewrite history. Deal "struck a careful balance" on NI. "In good faith we accepted certain obligations in the NI protocol. "We agreed to conduct some light-touch processes."
"But details of this intricate deal and the obvious tensions between some of its provisions can only be resolved with a basic minimum of common sense and goodwill from both sides." White is black.
Here it comes. "I regret to have to tell the House that in recent months the EU has suggested it is willing to go to extreme and unreasonable lengths, using the NI protocol in away that goes beyond commons sense simply in a way to exert leverage against the UK."
"To take the most glaring example - the EU has said if we fail to reach an agreement they might very well refuse to list the UK's food and agricultural products for sale anywhere in the EU."
"Under this protocol that decision would create an automatic prohibition on the transfer of our animal products from GB to NI. Our interlocutors on the other side are holding out the possibility of blockading food and agricultural transports within our own country."
Sigh. OK. So here's what he's on about. There is such a thing as sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) lists. These basically authorise that your food products are safe for their market.
The EU clearly stated to the UK that there is no guarantee it would be on that list. There is, of course, no guarantee that *any* country stays on that list. There are no guarantees of what happens if you change your standards in the future.
I suspect the EU mentioned this as leverage and the UK lost its shit.
But here's the thing. None of that applies to this bill. This bill talks about NI to GB. What he's talking about is GB to NI. It is not relevant here. But it is telling that he is trying to strike this matchbox Churchillian fight-them-on-the-beaches tone. And also very grim.
There is also the point, and I will not tire of saying it because it at least offers you a tentative link to sanity - that this was obvious when he signed the fucking deal. He is wailing against his own inadequacy.
"No British PM, no govt, no parliament could ever accept such an imposition." You already did accept it, you epic buffoon.
Fuck me, the mendacity. If you could only bottle it, the world need never want for energy again.
Chris Bryant: The justice secretary is required by law to swear he will uphold the rule of law. How then can the PM seriously advance a piece of legislation which says.... [and then reads out the relevant sections on breaking international law."
PM: "We do not relish the prospect of having to use these powers at all. We hope very much the EU will be reasonable. But any democratically elected government of this country must be obliged to do whatever they can to uphold the territorial integrity of this country."
Again. Boring I know. But he signed that deal.

He signed the deal.

The deal he is talking about is the deal he signed.

It's like watching a dog try to bite off its own arse.
Steve Brine, Tory rebel over no-deal, wants assurances that his policy is still to secure a free trade agreement (FTA) with the EU. Sounds pretty weak. It's this kind of limp request which suggests the Tory party will give in to the constitutional lunacy Johnson is describing.
Johnson banging on that the bill "backs our negotiators in Brussels." Sweet Christ. Exactly the same godawful guff Theresa May used to regurgitate. Years pass, but it's all the same pointless shite.
Ed Miliband up for Labour. Says it raises a few questions - how to maintain the UK internal market and protecting devolution. Second, will the UK abide by the rule of law.
"These are not small questions. But go to the heart of who we are as a country and to the character of this govt."
He says it is duty of govt to protect internal market. But two decades of devolution settlement aimed to devolve power, including on environment and animal safety. But the govt's approach is a blunderbus. if Westminster lowers standards, there's no voice for devolved nations.
"From a man who said he wanted to Get Brexit Done, this bill gets Brexit undone, but overturning key aspects of the protocol that were agreed."
"I do say to the PM, while I have been part of many issues of contention across this dispatch box, I never thought respecting international would in my lifetime be a matter of disagreement."
"I stood opposite the PM's predecessor David Cameron - I don't know why he's rolling his eyes - for five years. I disagreed with him profoundly on many issues, but I could never have imagined him coming along and saying 'we're going to legislate to break international law'."
Miliband raises three tests: Is it right to threaten to break the law, is it necessary and will it help the country. The answer to each, he says, is no.
First mention of Magna Carta DRINK.
"When you ask people to think of Britain, they think of the rule of law. This is not an argument of Remain versus Leave. It's an argument of right versus wrong."
Good speech from Miliband.
Johnson as Miliband speaks.
Predictably imbecilic intervention from Bernard Jenkins: "Does he think the EU has been negotiating in good faith?" Miliband reads out a report from Tory-chaired NI select committee saying the talks have been conducted in "good faith and mutual respect".
I dunno man, listening to this speech, I quite fancy a bit of that chaos we'd have had under this guy.
Miliband continues. "We rightly condemn China when it rides roughshod over treaties om Hong Kong. We say they're going back on their word. We're saying they can;t be trusted. His defence? 'Don't worry, I can't be trusted either."
Tory Mp gets up to ask Miliband, pointlessly, if Labour keeps it's word to voters. Miliband deals with it rather easily. The PM said the deal was oven-ready. "It's not me coming along saying it's half-baked. It's him."
Angela Eagle (Lab): "Could he perhaps tell the House who on earth might have signed this terrible deal with so many ambiguities nine months ago?"
Miliband now takes each argument in turn. First the food blockades argument. "This is as ridiculous an argument as I've ever heard, even by his arguments."
He points out that Article 16 of the protocol says that serious economic societal or environmental difficulties, the UK can unilaterally take a appropriate safeguard measures. Oh dear, That really has rather bollocksed the Johnson augment quite comprehensibly.
Then makes the point I made earlier: "This bill does precisely nothing to address issue of transport of food from GB to NI." The two issues on international law are exit declarations NI to GB and state aid in NI.
"If the PM wants to tell us there's another part of this bill I haven't noticed that will deal with this supposed threat of the blockade, he can - I'll give way."
"He can tell us. I'm sure he;s read it. I'm sure he knows it in detail, because he;s a details man. What clause protects the threat he says he's worried about." Johnson refuses to get up.
Miliband: "There you have it. He didn't read the protocol. He hasn't read his bill. He doesn't know his stuff."
Second argument: The deal puts the Good Friday agreement at risk. Miliband quotes the people behind the Good Friday agreement instead - John Major and Tony Blair: "The bill puts the Good Friday Agreement at risk."
Miliband: "This is not just legislative hooliganism on any issue. It is on the most sensitive issues of all."
Incredible to watch the DUP support the prime minister to destroy the prime minister's protocol because they felt betrayed by the prime minister's protocol and yet trust him now.
The sense of logical and moral whiplash is extraordinary.
Miliband: "What the PM is coming to the House to tell us today is that his flagship achievement, the deal he fought and won the general election on, is now contradictory and ambiguous."
"What incompetence. What failure of governance. And how dare he try and blame everyone else. this time, he can't blame [Theresa May]. He can't blame John Major. He can't blame the judges. He can't blame the civil servants. He can't sack the Cabinet secretary again."
"There's only one person responsible for it and that;s him. This is his deal. It's his mess. It's his failure For the first time in his life it;s time to take responsibility."
Scorching from Miliband.
Miliband almost in total despair, like dealing with a child. "This is all so unnecessary. Because there is a mechanism designed for exactly this purpose in the protocol" - the joint committee.
A fourth argument. The justice secretary used a fire alarm defence - we don't ant to do this but we might have to. Miliband says the very act of padsing the bill "is itself a breach of international law".
(My understanding is that there is debate on that in legal circles - but happy to defer to any of the learned friends on here if they say otherwise.)
Bob Neill intervenes along those lines - says it would only be in breach when the provisions "come into force", not when the bill is passed.
Now focuses on the 'specific and limited' defence. Says home secretary is in papers today telling people 'you must abide by the law'. She spoke today of a "law abiding majority sticking to these new rules". Miliband adds: "You couldn't make it up."
Miliband: "The Johnson defence means something very specific: There is one rule for the British public, another rule for this government."
Miliband now takes on Johnson argument that this bill makes it easier to get a deal. but going back on a deal we just did in order to secure one now is not smart and will make them "less likely to trust us."
Miliband taking on pretty much every argument available here. It's a machine gun attack.
"This is a signal we're sending to our friends and allies around the world. A country known for the rule of law. A country that abides by the law. The country that founded international law. That's why we cannot support this bill and will oppose it tonight."
State of Johnson.
A 101 MPs want to speak fuck my life.
Oh good. Bill Cash to start.
Starts gibbering about strangling jobs and businesses. The EU wants to turn us into an "neutered trivial Lilliput, an enslaved economic satellite of the EU".
These guys breed and everything. All completely legal. It's mad that it's allowed.
He's been so angry for so long. Man gets everything he wants and arguably looks even more unhappy did he did five years ago.
At least I used to be happy, before the nativism thing took over. Got a few years of joy slipped in there before it all went tits up.
I was going to hold off from drinking until 8pm but Christ I don't think I'll make it.
Ian Blackford, SNP Westminster leader: "The IM bill is the greatest threat to devolution that Scotland has faced sine our parliament was reconvened in 1999."
The Scottish people "will chose to be part of a new Scotland back at the heart of Europe. We can choose to leave behind the chaos and instability of Westminster. We can get on by becoming an independent, international, law-abiding nation."
That section really showed how perfectly Johnson's administration provides the SNP with a perfect narrative for independence.
Tory Bob Neill (who will put forward his amendment later in the week) is up. Cites his concerns on international law. Says the powers the govt is giving itself are "sweeping".
Neill argument is very light. He is not actually complaining about breaking international it seems. He is complaining that the govt is going for it too quickly.
Basically, there are various procedures that the government could use which would make the clauses unnecessary, so they shouldn't be used "until every opportunity to resolve any dispute" has been spent.
See I really think this is the problem with Neill. He's standing up and doing something - fair enough. But ultimately he accepts the fundamental principle of breaking international law. A
And that's not just about values or principles. It's about political dynamics. It would involve passing a bill which allows the govt to break international law and then give parliament a vote when it does it, which, having accepted the principle, it will do.
Hilary Benn: "There is a moral here. The first is read stuff before you sign it. And the second is don't go around telling the world that the UK cannot be trusted to keep its word."
"This is a terrible diversion from the task at hand. We have less than 4 months to go. The livelihoods of many businesses depend on getting a deal with the EU."
Fuck it.
If I babysip there's a chance I won't be completely hammered by the time of the vote.
Christopher Chope, Tory, like some haunted painting come to life, saying how impressed he was by the PM's "cogent analysis".
Fuck knows what he's on about. Babbling about the European Convention of Human Rights.
Andrea Jenkins, because of course. Endless parade of horror. Like a surgical procedure to eradicate any trace intelligence.
"It has become crystal clear ever since our country voted to leave that the EU would not act in a constructive spirit. Brussels has continually attempted to trap us in its orbit. The British people will never accept the status of vassal state....." and on it goes.
They've confused a negotiation for a Conan movie.
"Much of the EU's desire is to see our country fail." Where do they get this stuff from. I mean really. On a purely psychological level, what's the cause of it.
Oliver Heald, Tory: "I do have concerns. For our country to break it's word and breach international law is just not something that we do."
"All the PM's I've served under have come out with grave concerns about this bill. Margaret Thatcher herself made clear how important it is - often saying democracy is not enough without a love of liberty and respect for the rule of law."
Really quite a lot of disquiet on the Tory benches. But I wouldn't get any hopes up. There's very little chance of this thing being voted down today.
Heald says he'll support the Neill amendment. I won't keep saying this every time, but I can't see much difference made by that, except for the embarrassment it will cause the government. Anyway, that won't be voted on until next week.
Wayne David, Labour: "I have been a member of this House for a good many years. This is the worst piece of draft legislation I've ever seen being brought before it. It is a shabby and dishonourable piece of draft legisation."
Colum Eastwood, SDLP: "The protocol is there to protect us from a hard border. That's why it's there. Without that protocol the only thing that we're being offered to protect us is the word of a man whose word can clearly not be trusted."
Desmond Swayne, Tory, like Bruce Wayne in some zero-budget British 1950s Batman TV series, discharging a tremendous amount of pent-up nonsense.
He hasn't been able to talk horseshit for hours and now it is flowing out like a fucking river.
Swear to god.
Bernard Jenkins, Tory, an opinion in search of the words with which to articulate itself, insists the EU "still does not accept Brexit".
Three more hours. Christ. Even that interminable Bollywood film the missus made me watch would be a more attractive prospect than this.
Imran Ahmad Khan, Tory: "Whilst I stand four square behind the govt's policies and objective I cannot vote for legislation that a Cabinet minister stated from the despatch box will break international law."
"The UK has always held itself to a higher standard. Our principles of fair play and freedom and the rule of law are part of who we are. They are in our DNA and must be protected. Moral authority is hard earned and easily lost. Once damaged it is difficult to repair."
Khan's argument is interesting. He is signed up to 99% of the mad chest-beating nonsense from the govt. He believes the bill could have been OK in international law, but seems to have been put off by the Cabinet minister explicitly stating it was against international law.
"We've been been placed in a predicament because of that statement." He wants Gove, who will sum up for the govt, that the bill not "automatically" put the UK in breach of international law.
Two interesting things there. Firstly, most Tory rebels are desperate not to rebel. They were screwed by govt making it explicit that the bill went against international law.
Second, this issue of whether the passing of the bill itself, rather than the use of the powers within it, is against the law, is becoming crucial.
Gove nodding eagerly through that. It's possible that the govt will try to neutralise the rebellion by saying that only the powers and not the bill itself breach international law.
Jeremy Wright, Tory, supports majority of bill but "my issue is with clauses 42, 43 and 45, which take what was agreed less that an year ago about the primacy of the withdrawal agreement WA over domestic law and reverse it."
"They are not a clarification but a contradiction of that agreement. And the got is very clear about this. Doing that would be breaking international law."
"The blatant and unilateral breach of a treaty commitment could only be justified in the most extreme and persuasive circumstances." The govt says those circumstances are no-deal and the joint committee unable to deal with it.
Both these situations were foreseeable, he says. But when this deal was signed and legislated, the govt did not say that. They said it was a good deal.
So what's the argument? That the EU is now adopting such an outrageous reading of the protocol that we couldn't have seen it coming or accept it. But the WA set out a mechanism for resolving such disputes. If the EU was being that extreme, why wouldn't that mechanism work?
Brilliant speech from Wright.
"I accept the got has a problem, but I cannot accept the proposed solution is either necessary or right. International law matters."
"If parliament were to give ministers they powers they're asking for, and if they were exercised, we would all come to regret it. That's why I can't vote for these clauses as they stand, nor for a bill that contains them."
Note the way that Wright is opposed to even giving ministers the power, not just them being exercised. Suggests the Neill amendment would not be enough for him.
Really was a very good speech. Almost worth sticking around for.
Andrea Leadsom. Endless march of awfulness. Seemingly without end.
"They have not acted in good faith. The Commission sought to reach in to our sovereign UK and force us to abide by their rules."
Look I can't even.... I mean what can you do? Just say it over and over again?
You signed that deal. In the bowels of Christ. It's yours. Please just for once take some responsibility for your actions rather than blaming an imaginary enemy.
Now David Jones with the Stepford cuckoo they-haven't-acted-in-good-faith argument. By which what they mean is that the EU has its own seperate interests.
It's the political equivalent of a one year old child. People simply unable to grasp that other people exist and that the entire world is not designed to reflect their needs.
Andrew Mitchell, Tory, will vote for second reading, but will vote against anything that breaches international law.
Basically: You can vote for it today t send it on to the committee stage, where they'll attach amendments etc. So it seems he'll do that and then, I presume, support amendments which negate the international law aspects.
"I have voted in ways in this House I have regretted in the past. I voted for Section 28. I voted for the Poll Tax. I voted for Iraq. But I don't believe I've ever gone into a lobby to vote in a way I knew was wrong. And I won't be doing it on this occasion either."
Oh shit my ganky rotting fruit got in the shot. Ignore that. I lead a very glamorous life.
Stephen Hammond, Tory: "Like many across this House I have some serious concerns about part five of this bill and the effect of those provisions on our international reputation, the rule of law and NI."
"Many people seem to be justifying part 5 of the bill to avoid an impact on GB-NI trade. It's one thing to reject a draft treaty on these grounds. It's an entirely different premise to consider breaching existing treaty obligations, freely entered into by a government, on that."
Hammond deserves huge credit for being prepared to speak the truth to his own benches.
"Some level of bureaucracy was, and is now, the foreseeable and obvious consequence of the withdrawal agreement we signed. That point was highlighted at the time, but it was justified as way we would move onto the next phase."
"This country cannot, and does not, break international law just because it does not like the compromise it signed up to."
Hammond hints to Gove that an amendment on a further vote -ie Neill's - would reassure him. But says 45.2b would lead to a breach of international law "at the point of royal assent". I'm not sure quite how to put those two things together.
Craig Mackinlay, Tory: "Let us be clear. The provisions in this bill are fully allowed for within the NI protocol."

Labour MP: "If it's entirely within the protocol, why is the govt saying it's breaking the law."

Mackinlay: "Well that's a matter for the govt."
Amazingly, he just cited the very provision in the protocol which show why the bill is not necessary to defend the need of the bill.
Sorry it's just some of the stuff back there was so fucking stupid I had to go sit down in the corner for a while.
God Gareth Bacon, Tory, is boring. You could inject cocaine into my fucking eyes and I'd still fall asleep listening to him.
Talks the most godawful shite as well. "The EU is fearful of us. Why would they not be? A strong independent Britain prospering on their doorside is not something they would necessarily welcome."
Yes, they're terrified. What they've always feared are countries which have become so deranged on their own cultural anxieties that they saw their own legs off.
Brendan Clarke-Smith, Tory, no me neither: "There's an old saying that starts with the phrase 'give a man fish'. For some, unfortunately they would give a man as much fish as he wants."
I think he's trying to make a point about fishing rights. It's hard to tell. Maybe he's gone mad. Maybe his mind has completely caved in on itself.
Amazing to watch this play out precisely as we said it would in 2016. When the Brexit dreams fall apart, who do they blame? Remainers. The EU.
And that is the overwhelming message from the Tory benches. It's all Brussels' fault. It's all the fault of those who wished we'd never left.
Lee Anderson, Tory, says the deal is "oven-ready". Clearly didn't get the menu. It's ambiguous now mate. Keep up.
Grim little ending to his speech. "Members of this House need to decide where their loyalties lie. Is it with the EU or with the UK?"
Yep. Anyone with the temerity to point out that you've blown your arse off is a traitor.
Time slowed to a crawl. Each minute in this company lasting hours. It's like that that film Interstellar. A second spent near the surface of the Tory mindset takes a month off your life.
Nicholas Fletcher giving Gareth Bacon a bit of competition for the title of most boring man in the Commons.
Content of his speech was marginally less degenerate.
They're going to make me do it.
Fine. It's happening.
Alexander Stafford, Tory: "This is no more, this disunity is no more than people once again saying 'you don't know what you voted for'. And I say no! We voted again and again for our country. It is our country! We are one family. We are still family."
"But I'll tell you who's not part of our family, and that's the European Union."
I'm not making this up. And that's why I drink.
And then of course, at the end of the road, to sum up for the govt: Michael Gove. So even when it ends, it somehow gets worse.
Ben Spencer, Tory: "There are several clauses in part five which cause me great concern."
"The consequences of breaching an international treaty are very grave, so if we do or even propose that we do, not only must our justification be clear but it must also be the very last thing we do. It must be an action taken in extremis."
Crucial part of that section - once again - is "or even propose that we do". Given what we've seen today that seems to be the most important distinction within the rebel ranks.
Rachel Reeves summing up for the opposition.
She quotes: "'The rule of law is the most precious asset of any civilised society, because it ensures that when those who hold power abuse it, they can be checked.'" She then reveals it;s a Michael Gove quote.
"And in a few moments time he is going to urge hon members to vote for a piece of legislation that he knows and accepts seeks to break international law."
"I have spoken in many debates in this House of Commons in the ten years I've been a member of parliament. But few have had the gravity or the implications of this bill that we are voting for this evening."
"Around the world people are looking at us and asking who we really are. I say let's stand up for our proudest traditions."
Gove up. We know the score. Immaculately polite. Prepared to say anything - anything at all - if it suits his agenda.
Gove now trying to make the case for the EU not acting in good faith. Cites demand for level playing field, nonsense about the food blockade, fisheries demands.
In other words, because it has negotiating demands, it is not acting in good faith. "Some people might not think he EU had been negotiating absolutely 100% in line with what all of us might have hoped... so we must be prepared for every eventuality."
Tom Tugendhat wants assurances that any use of the powers would only occur when all the existing dispute mechanisms have been used up. "Will he be absolutely clear?" He asks Tories still trying desperately to find a way out to back the bill.
Gove: "My rt hon friend makes a very important point, It is the case that patient negotiation is the way forward." He;s challenged. "No, I entirely agree with him." So no.
"But just as last year we were ready to support our PM in showing steely resolve to get the best possible deal, so now we must back our PM, back our negotiators... and support this bill this evening."
MPs now going to vote on the Labour amendment.
Three interesting things in the Gove speech. First, he didn't try to defend breaking international law. Second, he did not once again say the govt intended to break international law - they're softening their messaging, altho not reversing it. Third, no concessions to rebels.
MPs currently voting on Labour's amendment, which basically rejects the bill. No chance of this passing of course. If Tory MPs were to have the numbers to kill this bill, it would not be through a Labour amendment.
Despite the fact that Gove offered no concessions there, the tone and his manner suggests to me that the govt will accept that Neill amendment next week. And the fact they will do so indicates how useless it is.
Amendment fails. 213 votes to 349.
Now we're going to the key vote on second reading.
Remember that this vote does not finish the process - it just starts it. The bill will then go to committee stage, where the amendments battles take place. It'll also have to come to the Commons for them and the bill as a whole to be voted on.
And, unusually, the Lords could well turn out to be a centre of real resistance as well. Which would be good constitutionally, but bad personally, because I'd actually have to figure out how the fuck that place works.
We're not expecting government to be defeated here. If it were, it would be incredible of course - champagne all round, rekindled faith in the country etc. But that won't happen. Will give us a sense of how many Tories are willing to abstain or even vote against however.
Bill passes second reading: 340 votes to 263.
Poor, even by the standards we might have hoped for.
Some potential rebels will have told themselves that they want to pass the bill so that amendments can be debated. But ultimately, little point in putting faith in these guys. They won't stop it. It will almost certainly become law.
There really is no statement damning enough for what we're witnessing. It's a low point in our national life - an attack on the most basic principles of liberal democracy.
Sorry. I know it sounds hyperbolic. It really isn't. This is core principle stuff. The bedrock of how you operate as a country. If you can't support the rule of law, there's really very little left.
Piece up on site in five.
Might have a few typos. I'm actually fairly hammered by this stage.
Right - full report: Shock and outrage as parliament votes to put government above the law politics.co.uk/blogs/2020/09/…
Right, that's me for the night. Cheers for following along everyone. Sorry it is such a spectacle of dread, but then we're surely used to it by now.
If you like this kind of stuff - despair, technical nerdery, a forlorn hope for basic liberal decency - buy my book.
Yeah, that's right, I haven't promoted it for at least two hours. Buy my bastard book. canburypress.com/products/how-t…

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More from @IanDunt

22 Sep
Johnson will be up to announce new covid restrictions in the Commons in a bit parliamentlive.tv/Event/Index/0a…
I'm supposed to be delivering a best man speech at a wedding this weekend, so I'm taking a stronger-than-usual personal interest.
Common sense. Drink.
Read 11 tweets
22 Sep
Obvs going to be completely overshadowed today, but Starmer is making his conference speech on here right now labour.org.uk/labour-connect…
Bits out beforehand suggest an attempt to outline a progressive patriotism capable of winning red wall seats back. That's important not just for Labour but for the broader liberal left, to see if it can summon the kind of language required.
The whole chatting-to-an-audience-which-is-not-there thing is weird, whichever way you shake it.
Read 15 tweets
21 Sep
Right, I've done something weird. I've started a film list to go with the book.
Absolutely no-one wanted this. Absolutely no-one demanded it. I have done it anyway.
The great big How To Be A Liberal film marathon is LIVE and you can get it here. One or two films a chapter, exploring the events and ideas they contain. iandunt.com/2020/09/21/the…
Read 5 tweets
20 Sep
Very depressing conversation with a taxi driver, in line with that I've heard from shop owners this week. No tourists. No-one going into Central London. Whole parts of the economy facing the abyss over the winter.
Not about pushing people back into the office or insisting the economy matters more than public health. It's just that it's so easy to forget what's going on around us.
Things are bad out there. Really bad. And because covid pushes us to stay in, we can't see the full extent of the damage.
Read 4 tweets
15 Sep
So the book tour I was going to do obvs got covid-cancelled sob and all the lovely talks are replaced by darting into bookshops when they're quiet to sign things.
BUT the positive is that I do actually get to visit bookshops all around the place and fuck me they're lovely. It's the smell. The smell and the tempo. No other act of shopping has the tempo of book shopping.
This is Coles Books in Bicester. Lovely. Gallery bit upstairs selling posters, vinyl, signed editions. coles-books.co.uk Image
Read 8 tweets
10 Sep
Something interesting is happening. The government is spoiling for a fight. Johnson was visibly desperate for Starmer to talk about Brexit in PMQs yesterday. No.10 clearly expect & want EU to take it to ECJ/walk away from table.
That then puts the government where they're comfortable - appealing to the culture war base, fighting off treacherous Remainers at home and dastardly Europeans abroad.
But what if neither side give them what they want. Starmer keeps well away. EU stays in talks, basically sitting it out, not pouring fuel on the fire.
Read 6 tweets

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