The Government of the UK may break international law over Brexit negotiations

Boris Johnson has urged MPs to support a bill which modifies the Brexit deal he signed with the EU in January. The PM said that the Bill would ensure the integrity of the UK internal market and hand power to Scotland and Wales, as well as it would protect the Northern Ireland peace process.

Concerns had been raised about legislation being brought forward which could change parts of the withdrawal agreement, negotiated last year.

Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis conceded it would go against the treaty in a "specific and limited way". Senior Conservatives have warned it risks undermining the UK's reputation as an upholder of international law.

Former PM Theresa May warned the change could damage "trust" in the UK over future trade deals with other states.

The permanent secretary to the Government Legal Department, Sir Jonathan Jones, has announced he is resigning from government in light of the bill, making him the sixth senior civil servant to leave Whitehall this year. Concerns had been raised in the administrations of Scotland and Wales.

The European Commission has called for an extraordinary meeting to discuss the bill's contents.

Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said: "Very concerned about announcements from the British government on its intentions to breach the Withdrawal Agreement. This would break international law and undermines trust."

The new bill sets out rules for the operation of the UK internal market - trade between England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland - after the end of the Brexit transition period in January.

It proposes:

  • No new checks on goods moving from Northern Ireland to the rest of Great Britain
  • Giving UK ministers powers to modify or "disapply" rules relating to the movement of goods that will come into force from 1 January if the UK and EU are unable to reach an alternative agreement through a trade deal
  • Powers to override previously agreed obligations on state aid - government support for businesses

The bill explicitly states that these powers should apply even if they are incompatible with international law.

Опубликовано 08.09.2020.

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