British Prime Minister Boris Johnson says his plan to unilaterally rewrite Britain’s divorce agreement with the European Union is an insurance policy against the bloc’s unreasonable behavior, comments that came when his former Attorney General he has joined a growing number of once loyal lawmakers condemning the controversial move.
Johnson said Monday that a planned law designed to ignore parts of the Brexit withdrawal agreement was necessary because the EU could “go to extreme and unreasonable lengths” in treating the former member of Britain.
“I have absolutely no desire to use these measures,”
The UK formally left the blockade on January 31, but existing trade rules remain in place until the end of this year in a transition designed to provide time to negotiate a long-term trade deal.
Johnson’s conservative government has acknowledged that the bill violates the legally binding withdrawal treaty that Britain and the EU have both ratified. The legislation threatens to sink the already founding negotiations between Britain and the EU on a post-Brexit trade deal.
Ed Miliband, corporate spokesman for the opposition Labor Party, accused Johnson of “ruining the reputation of this country and destroying the reputation of his office.”
With an 80-seat majority in the House of Commons, Johnson should have enough votes to pass his legislation in Parliament, but there is widespread unease within the Conservative Party over the move that violates the law.
Geoffrey Cox, who was the government’s top legal official when Johnson negotiated the Brexit withdrawal agreement less than a year ago, said reneging on the deal would be an “inconceivable” violation of international law.
Cox, previously a strong Johnson supporter of Brexit, said he would not support the proposal in his first vote in the House of Commons on Monday.
“I simply cannot approve or support a situation where we return to our word, solemnly given,” Cox told Times Radio. “Violation of the law ultimately leads to permanent and long-lasting damage to the reputation of this country.”
Sajid Javid, a former Treasury chief in Johnson’s cabinet, also said he will not vote in favor of the bill because “I cannot support the UK’s preventive renunciation” on the withdrawal agreement.
The UK formally left the blockade on January 31, but existing trade rules remain in place until the end of this year as part of a transition agreement designed to provide time to negotiate a long-term trade deal.
Under the Brexit Divorce Agreement, Britain and the EU agreed to keep Northern Ireland – the only part of the UK to share a border with the bloc – bound by certain EU rules on trade, to avoid the need for border controls for goods moving between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. Both sides agreed to the compromise to secure the open border, which helps support the peace process in Northern Ireland.
EUROPEAN UNION. REQUESTS UK REWRITE BREXIT BILL, THREATEN LEGAL ACTION
The draft internal market law, which the government hopes to pass into law within weeks, would give the UK government the power to override the EU’s agreed role in overseeing trade between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK .
Johnson says the EU has threatened to use “an extreme interpretation” of the Withdrawal Agreement to “block” food shipments from the rest of the UK to Northern Ireland unless Britain agrees to accept the EU regulations.
He said the blockade was “threatening to cut tariff borders across our country and divide our land.”
The EU denies the threat of a blockade and says it simply wants Britain to live up to the terms of the deal. EU leaders are outraged by the prime minister’s proposal and have threatened the UK with legal action if it does not withdraw the proposal by the end of the month.
Two former UK Conservative Prime Ministers, John Major and Theresa May, have condemned the legislation. A third, David Cameron, said on Monday he had “doubts”.
Conservative MP Rehman Chishti stepped down on Monday as the prime minister’s special envoy for freedom of religion to protest the bill. He tweeted that as a former lawyer, “the values of respecting the rule of law and honoring one’s word are dear to me.”
What puzzles some observers is that Johnson is repudiating a treaty he himself negotiated and hailed as an “oven-ready” deal that “would bring Brexit to an end.” That declaration of victory was the key to Johnson’s successful December 2019 election campaign.
“There was a political imperative for the government to get a deal and then go to the electorate with the claim that they had, to coin a phrase, done Brexit,” said Tim Bale, a politics professor at Queen. Mary University of London.
“I think in some ways it was perhaps true that it was about ‘making the deal quickly and then repenting at will.’ And what we’re seeing now is repentance. “
Johnson’s move dented waning confidence between Britain and the EU as they try to negotiate a new trade relationship.
Despite the chill in London-Brussels relations and the threat of legal action, trade talks between the two sides will continue this week. Both sides say any deal must be agreed by next month, so there is time to ratify it by December 31st.
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If there is no deal, tariffs and other barriers to trade will be imposed by both sides in early 2021.
This would mean massive economic upheaval for the UK, which does half of its trade with the bloc. A no-deal exit on January 1 would also hit some EU nations, including Ireland, France, Belgium and the Netherlands, particularly hard.