British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said his plan to unilaterally rewrite Britain’s divorce agreement with the European Union is an insurance policy against the bloc’s unreasonable behavior, comments which came when his former Attorney General has joined a growing number of once-loyal lawmakers condemning the contentious decision.
Johnson said Monday that a bill to cancel parts of the Brexit withdrawal agreement was needed because the EU could “go to extreme and unreasonable lengths” in its treatment of the former British member.
“I have absolutely no desire to use these measures,” Johnson told lawmakers as he introduced the Home Market Bill to the House of Commons. “It’s an insurance policy. ”
The UK officially left the bloc on Jan.31, but existing trade rules remain in place until the end of this year as part of a transition designed to give time to negotiate a long-term trade deal.
Johnson’s Conservative government has admitted the bill violates the legally binding Withdrawal Treaty that Britain and the EU have both ratified. The legislation threatens to sink negotiations already underway between Britain and the EU on a post-Brexit trade deal.
Ed Miliband, spokesman for the opposition Labor Party, accused Johnson of “destroying the reputation of this country and destroying the reputation of his office”.
With an 80-seat majority in the House of Commons, Johnson is expected to have enough votes to push his legislation through Parliament, but there is great unease within the Conservative Party over this infringement initiative.
Geoffrey Cox, who was the government’s chief legal counsel when Johnson negotiated the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement less than a year ago, has said reneging on the deal would be an “unacceptable” violation of international law.
Cox, previously a strong Johnson supporter on Brexit, said he would not support the proposal in his first vote in the House of Commons on Monday.
“I just cannot endorse or approve of a situation where we go back on our solemnly given word,” Cox said on Times Radio. “Failure to follow the law ultimately leads to very long-term and permanent damage to the reputation of this country. ”
Sajid Javid, a former head of the Treasury in the Johnson government, also said he would not vote for the bill because “I cannot support the UK’s pre-emptive renunciation” of the Withdrawal Agreement.
The UK officially left the bloc on January 31, but existing trade rules remain in place until the end of this year as part of a transitional deal designed to give time to negotiate a long-term trade deal term.
As part of the Brexit divorce deal, Britain and the EU agreed to keep Northern Ireland – the only part of the UK to share a border with the bloc – bound to certain rules of EU on trade, in order to avoid the need for border controls on goods moving between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. Both sides agreed to the compromise to protect the open border, which helps support the peace process in Northern Ireland.
EU DEMANDS UK TO REWRITE BILL BREXIT, THREATS LEGAL ACTION
The Home Market Bill, which the government hopes to enact in a few weeks, would give the UK government the power to override the agreed EU role in monitoring trade between Northern Ireland and the rest of the Kingdom -United.
Johnson claims 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 does accepts EU regulations.
He said the bloc “threatened to cut tariff borders across our own country and divide our own land.”
The EU denies threatening a blockade and says it just wants Britain to respect 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 drop the proposal by the end of the month.
Two former Conservative British prime ministers, John Major and Theresa May, have condemned the bill. On Monday a third, David Cameron, said he had “doubts”.
Conservative lawmaker Rehman Chishti resigned his post as the prime minister’s special envoy on religious freedom on Monday to protest the bill. He tweeted that as a former lawyer, “the values of upholding the rule of law and honoring his word are dear to me.”
What mystifies some observers is that Johnson is repudiating a treaty he himself negotiated and hailed as a ‘plug and play’ deal that ‘would do Brexit’. This declaration of victory was the key to the success of Johnson’s election campaign in December 2019.
“There was a political imperative for the government to get a deal and then go to the electorate saying they had, to make up a phrase, won Brexit,” said Tim Bale, professor of politics. at Queen Mary University in London. .
“I think maybe it was in some ways that it was ‘make the deal in a hurry and then repent at your leisure.’ And what we see now is repentance. ”
Johnson’s move has undermined weaker and weaker trust between Britain and the EU as they attempt to negotiate a new trade relationship.
Despite the coldness of relations between London and Brussels and the threat of legal action, trade negotiations between the two parties are due to continue this week. Both sides say any deal must be done by next month, so it’s time for it to be ratified by December 31.
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If there is no deal, tariffs and other trade barriers will be imposed by both parties in early 2021.
It would mean a huge economic disruption for the UK, which does half of its trading with the bloc. A no-deal exit on January 1 would also hit some EU countries hard, including Ireland, France, Belgium and the Netherlands.