U.K. PM Boris Johnson defends planned law, says European Union 'unreasonable'

Elias Hubbard
September 15, 2020

"It's a protection, it's a safety net, it's an insurance policy and it's a very sensible measure", he said, adding he had no desire to use the measures.

But some European Union diplomats say they think London is playing a game of chicken, inviting the collapse of trade talks to either get the deal it wants or leave without a deal.

The bill "is potentially a harmful act for this country, it would damage our reputation and I think it will make it harder to strike trade deals going forward", he told Channel 4 News.

The bill has also come under attack from a number of former British prime ministers, including Labour's Tony Blair and Conservatives John Major and Theresa May.

I can't support Internal Market Bill in its current form, which unilaterally breaks UK's legal commitments.

What mystifies some observers is that Johnson is repudiating a treaty that he himself negotiated and hailed as an "oven-ready" deal that would "get Brexit done".

The EU has demanded Britain scrap the main parts of the bill by the end of September and that if not, there will be no trade deal at the end of the year to cover everything from auto parts to food.

Mr Johnson said it is "critical" that the Bill, which would override parts of the EU Withdrawal Agreement (WA) relating to Northern Ireland, is passed.

The Taoiseach also warned Boris Johnson against "playing politics" during the Brexit negotiations.

After the debate, lawmakers will decide if the bill should go to the next stage.

Sir Bob Neill, the Conservative MP behind the rebel amendment, said the Prime Minister's promise of a vote did not provide "enough scrutiny for such a constitutionally significant issue".

Geoffrey Cox, who was the government's top legal officer when Johnson negotiated the agreement less than a year ago, said reneging on the deal would be an "unconscionable" breach of worldwide law.

He acknowledged some personal "unease" at giving ministers powers to override the Brexit treaty but said they would not be needed if a trade deal was agreed as hoped with Brussels.

Rehman Chishti, the prime minister's special envoy on freedom of religion and belief, has resigned in protest at the Internal Market Bill and its implications for the backstop. He tweeted Monday that as a former lawyer, "values of respecting rule of law & honouring one's word are dear to me".

While the language of the bill does state it would "have effect notwithstanding any relevant global or domestic law with which they may be incompatible or inconsistent", the prime minister has stated that an additional vote would be required before the law's powers could be invoked, apparently hoping to assure opponents and hold back a rebellion within his own party.

"We should be getting on with defeating this virus, not reigniting old rows", Labour leader Keir Starmer wrote in the Sunday Telegraph.

Leo Varadkar said countries including the United States are questioning future trade deals with the UK over its handling of the latest Brexit fallout. "This is his deal, it's his mess, it's his failure".

Lawmakers on both sides of the House of Commons said the government's admission that the proposed legislation would breach worldwide law will weaken Britain's place in the world and hobble its attempts to call other countries - including Russia, China and Zimbabwe - to account.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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