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Former Folkestone and Hythe MP Lord Michael Howard voted against Brexit bill in the House of Lords

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The former Kent MP and Conservative Party leader Michael Howard helped inflict a major defeat on the government after joining a revolt over a controversial Brexit bill in the House of Lords.

Lord Howard, the former Folkestone and Hythe MP, said he was dismayed that his party was prepared to breach its own legislation and override elements of the Internal Market Bill.

Lord Howard
Lord Howard

Peers voted overwhelmingly against parts of the Bill that would give the government the right to breach a treaty agreed with Brussels last year.

The peer said law makers should not be law breakers and he was dismayed the party he once led had “chosen as one of the first assertions of its newly won sovereignty to break its word, to break international law, to renege on a treaty signed barely a year ago”.

“How can we reproach other countries – Russia, China, Iran – if their behaviour becomes reprehensible when we ourselves have such scant regard for the treaties we sign up to, when we ourselves set such a lamentable example?'

The Internal Market Bill is designed to enable goods and services to flow freely across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland after 1 January.

It is controversial because it empowers the government to change aspects of the EU withdrawal agreement, a legally binding deal governing the terms of Brexit made earlier this year.

Sir Roger Gale, MP for North Thanet, said government should listen to Lord Howard.

Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby also expressed concerns that the Bill “fails to take into account the sensitivities and complexities of Northern Ireland and could have unintended and serious consequences for peace and reconciliation".

The House of Lords voted 433 to 165 to remove the clause which gives the government the power to breach the treaty brokered with the EU last year.

The government is expected to reverse the defeat and reinsert the clause when the legislation comes back to the Commons next month.

Ministers have argued the Bill is needed to protect the Good Friday agreement from the risk that trade could be disrupted between Britain and Northern Ireland in the event of No Deal with the EU.

How is Brexit going to affect Kent? For all the latest news, views and analysis visit our dedicated page here.

Read more: All the latest news from Kent

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