Home News Brexit SNP Take Aim At Boris Johnson After He “Breaks International Law”

SNP Take Aim At Boris Johnson After He “Breaks International Law”

The Prime Minister has urged MPs to support the Internal Market Bill.

The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Brandon Lewis, addressed Parliament on Tuesday and made the admission that Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s plan to unilaterally rewrite part of the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement would break international law. “Yes, this does break international law in a very specific and limited way,” Mr Lewis stated.

The UK Government published the Internal Market Bill on Wednesday, which outlines how powers currently held by the EU will be shared out in the UK after the Brexit transition period ends.

Boris Johnson has urged MPs to support the Bill, which modifies the Brexit deal he signed with the EU in January in UK law. The PM said the Internal Market Bill would “ensure the integrity of the UK internal market”, handing powers to Scotland and Wales while protecting the Northern Ireland peace process.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson in No.10 Downing Street – Picture by Pippa Fowles / No 10 Downing Street – Number 10 Flickr – Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

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

The Internal Market Bill proposes:

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

The legislation can be viewed at bills.parliament.uk/bills/2775.

The Bill states that these powers should apply even if they are incompatible with international law, which has led to resistance from MPs across parties. Former PM Theresa May warned that the change could damage “trust” in the UK over future trade deals with other states.

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Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer also condemned the Bill, accusing The Government of “reopening old arguments that had been settled”, saying the “focus should be on getting a deal done” with the EU.

Nicola Sturgeon drew upon these changes to the Withdrawal Act to call for a second referendum on Scottish independence. The SNP leader stated: “This is a no-holds-barred, full-frontal assault on devolution.” She threatened that legal action could be on the table to prevent Boris Johnson’s administration from legislating for the UK Internal Market Bill.

The Brexit spokesman for the Northern Irish Democratic Unionist Party, Sammy Wilson, has welcomed the proposal, saying he was “pleased” to have a new Bill that could deal with some of the issues that could affect his constituents, such as state aid and customs checks.

He added that the DUP had “warned Ministers of the impact of the Withdrawal Agreement” early on, saying it was a “union-splitting, economy-destroying and border-creating agreement that has to be changed and replaced”.

Key EU figures have also expressed concern that the Internal Market Bill would override parts of the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement arrived at between the UK and the EU last year. These included EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, who tweeted: