PM won’t U-turn on Brexit bill despite US election; Lord sparks race row with Kamala Harris tweet

#Brexit special section Beyond England Downing Street

The prime minister will not U-turn on the international law-breaking Internal Market Bill in the wake of Joe Biden’s victory in the US presidential election, Downing Street insists.

Biden has long warned the US will not deal with the UK if the Good Friday Agreement for peace in Northern Ireland is put at risk by Brexit and specifically the clauses in the Internal Market Bill that threatens it explicitly.

Labour warned the UK risks becoming “an international pariah” if the government presses ahead with the bill that is being debated today (Monday) in the House of Lords.

Peers are expected to heavily amend – and remove clauses that break international law “in a very specific and limited way” – from the bill before it returns to the Commons. However, the PM’s official spokesman said the Commons will “consider any Lords amendments” and added: “but we do consider these clauses to be a vital safety net.”

MPs backed the bill with a 77 majority in September – 340 votes to 263 – despite the condemnation of all living former prime ministers and other senior politicians and barristers.

Brexit talks between Michel Barnier and Lord David Frost resumed today (Monday) with the time for the UK and EU to reach an agreement quickly running out. It has been speculated the UK’s position in talks was shaped by the US presidential race, with a no-deal outcome succoured by Donald Trump’s occupancy of the White House.

No10. ’not concerned’ Merkel and Macron might talk first to Biden

Biden has yet to call Johnson but number 10 insists the PM is “not concerned” about whether he is the first world leader to convene with the next US president, or the last.

A concern for those who cherish the UK’s “special relationship” with the US will be derived by the Independent’s report that Biden “will prioritise meeting Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron first”, further underlining the power shift in EU-US relations resulting from Trump’s defeat.

Johnson has a lot of ground to make up, beyond his alliance with Trumpism. In the run-up to 2016’s EU referendum, Johnson suggested President Barack Obama was anti-British because he is “part-Kenyan”.

Lord causes outrage calling Kamala Harris ‘the Indian’

The prime minister’s remarks remain offensive to Biden’s team and will no doubt be revived after Lord John Kilclooney – former Ulster Unionist Party deputy leader, John Taylor – became engulfed in a race row after claiming he called vice-president-elect Kamala Harris “the Indian” because he “did not know her name”.

“What happens if Biden moves on and the Indian becomes President. Who then becomes Vice President?” Kilclooney posted today on Twitter:

The Speaker of the Lords, former Conservative minister Norman Fowler, said Kilclooney “should retract and apologise” for his statement.

“This is an offensive way to refer to anyone, let alone a woman who has just made history,” tweeted Fowler.

“The comment is entirely unacceptable and has no place in British politics. I could not be clearer.”

Kilclooney caused offence when in 2018 he called Ireland’s taoiseach Leo Varadkar a “typical Indian”. The House of Lords standards commissioner did not investigate Kilclooney’s comments then, stating: “A member’s opinion, or the way they express themselves, does not fall within the scope of the code”.

When asked for his response to the abusive tweet, Varadkar, whose father is Indian, told the Dáil (Irish Parliament): “I actually had thought that was a parody account but seemingly it’s not – it actually is for real. And that’s all I’ll say about that.”

The previous November (2018), Kilclooney tweeted about comments made by the Irish foreign secretary’s aspirations for a united Ireland. “Simon Coveney is stirring things up . Very dangerous non statesman like role! Clearly hoping to undermine the Indian”, wrote the peer.

Kilclooney later claimed the tweet was “not racist”– and with echoes of his remarks on the US vice-president elect – but “shorthand for an Indian surname which I could not spell”.

Later still be accepted the tweet had “caused upset and misunderstanding and so I withdraw it”.

EU to hit US goods with tariffs tomorrow

Meanwhile, the EU will impose “billions of dollars of tariffs on a wide range of popular American food, drinks and other products” from tomorrow (Tuesday), reports the New York Times. The World Trade Organisation (WTO) have allowed the “retaliation” following a 16 investigation found “years of illegal subsidies given to the airplane maker Boeing” by the US.

Trump imposed tariffs on EU goods in 2019 when the WTO ruled illegal subsidies were given to European airplane maker Airbus – the main competitor of Boeing.

The tariffs could be short-lived given speculation of a US-EU agreement being reached even before Biden’s inauguration on January 20, as Boeing and Airbus have already “taken steps” to remove the illegal subsidies.


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