Tory ex-Chancellor Sajid Javid has threatened to rebel against Boris Johnson’s controversial new Brexit legislation.
In a blow to the PM ahead of a Commons clash over the plans, Mr Javid said he could not support the proposals which ministers have admitted breach international law.
MPs are due to debate the controversial new Internal Market Bill, with a crunch vote expected late on Monday night.
Moments before Mr Johnson arrived in the Commons to move the bill, Mr Javid announced he could not support the plans in their current form.
Mr Johnson will tell MPs that it is “critical” that the legislation is in place by the end of the year in order to act as a “safety net” if no trade deal is agreed with Brussels before the conclusion of the Brexit transition period.
But Mr Javid said: “One of the UK’s greatest strengths and traditions is respect for the rule of law.
“Our long-standing reputation for keeping our word has made us a more stable, peaceful and prosperous nation.
“Breaking international law is a step that should never be taken lightly. Having carefully studied the UK Internal Market Bill it is not clear to me why it is necessary to do so.
“While I fully backed every measure necessary to get the Withdrawal Agreement negotiated and passed by Parliament, I cannot support the UK pre-emptively reneging on that agreement.
“I will therefore regretfully be unable to support the Bill at its Second Reading, and urge the Government to amend it in the coming days.”
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Mr Javid said the UK should use the safeguards within the bill if the EU acts in bad faith during the talks.
Earlier on Monday, Tory MP Rehman Chishti resigned as special envoy on Freedom of Religion or Belief (FoRB) in opposition to the clauses in the Bill.
He tweeted: “As an MP for 10 years and former barrister, values of respecting rule of law and honouring one’s word are dear to me.”
And former Attorney General Geoffrey Cox also spoke out against the proposals.
“The breaking of the law leads ultimately to very long-term and permanent damage to this country’s reputation and it is also a question of honour to me – we signed up, we knew what we were signing,” he said.
Some 13 Tory MPs have openly declared they cannot support the legislation but the true number of potential rebels is thought to be much higher.
MPs will vote on whether to give the bill second reading on Monday night – its first Commons hurdle.