Brexit news: Internal Market Bill explained- How could Government break international law?

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Brexit has split the nation once again after the controversial Internal Market Bill has been published after the Government admitted this week it planned to “break international law”. Brexiteers claim the Bill does not take a hard enough line while opponents highlight the move is a breach of law. But how exactly does the new Bill allow the Government to breach international law?

The European Union has called for an emergency meeting to discuss its “strong concerns” regarding plans to overwrite the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement Bill.

European Commission vice-president Maros Sefcovic said: “I expressed our strong concerns and sought assurances that the UK will fully implement the Withdrawal Agreement, including the protocol on Ireland, Northern Ireland.

“In this context, I will call for an extraordinary Joint Committee on the Withdrawal Agreement to be held as soon as possible, so that our UK partners, elaborate, and respond to our strong concerns on the deal.

“Once the British government has announced the Bill, tabled the Bill, which is expected this afternoon, our president will react… We will study the bill carefully. And I believe that the Joint Committee would be the most appropriate venue for further discussion.”

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During Prime Minister’s Questions (PMQs) today, the SNP’s Westminster Leader Ian Blackford hailed the Internal Market Bill as “an affront to the people of Scotland”.

Speaking from the House of Commons, Mr Blackford said: “As we’ve already heard this legislation breaks international law but it also breaks domestic law.”

He accused Prime Minister Boris Johnson of making Britain a “rogue state” where “the rule of law does not apply”.

Mr Blackford added: “Why does the Prime Minister think that he and his friends are above the law?”

The key components of the legislation would see ministers provide themselves with the power to determine rules on state aid and goods travelling between Northern Ireland and Great Britain.

The draft legislation reads: “Certain provisions to have effect notwithstanding inconsistency or incompatibility with international or other domestic law.”

The legislation makes clear that “all rights, powers, liabilities, obligations, restrictions, remedies and

procedures which are, in accordance with section 7A of the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018” will be “recognised and available in domestic law” which refers to the general implementation of the remainder of the withdrawal agreement.

The bill specifies, however, the Internal Market Bill has the power to override any “relevant international or domestic law” including:

  • Any provision of the Northern Ireland protocol
  • Any other provision the EU withdrawal agreement
  • Any other EU law or international law
  • Any provision of the European Communities Act 1972
  • Any provision of the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018
  • Any retained EU law or relevant separation agreement law
  • Any other legislation, convention or rule of international or domestic law whatsoever, including any order, judgment or decision of the European Court or of any other court or tribunal.

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The agreement essentially provides the UK with the powers to rollback on terms agreed in the Withdrawal Agreement and it means the Internal Market Bill would need to be adhered to in courts above those specified in the EU/UK agreed Withdrawal Agreement Bill.

If approved the bill would enable ministers to disapply parts of the Northern Ireland protocol of the Withdrawal Agreement by modifying export declarations and other exit procedures.

The Internal Market Bill is currently at the second reading stage in the House of Commons.

The bill will now be subject to debate and approval through both houses before it is passed into law.

You can read the legislation in full here.

Soon after the legislation was published, senior EU officials expressed their outrage.

President of the EU Commission Ursula von der Leyen expressed concern about the move.

She tweeted: Very concerned about announcements from the British government on its intentions to breach the Withdrawal Agreement.

“This would break international law and undermines trust. Pacta sunt servanda = the foundation of prosperous future relations.”

The European Council president Charles Michel said the move is unacceptable.

Mr Michel tweeted: “The Withdrawal agreement was concluded and ratified by both sides, it has to be applied in full.

“Breaking international law is not acceptable and does not create the confidence we need to build our future relationship #Brexit”.

The bill has also garnered mixed responses from those within Mr Johnson’s party.

Brexiteers have shown their anger at his refusal to outline and clarify exactly where the Government intends to deviate and flout the agreed withdrawal agreement.

While other members have expressed outrage or confusion at the willingness to breach the law.

The legislation comes as trade deal talks enter a crucial week, with the EU’s Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier arriving in London ahead of the October 15 deadline.

The British PM announced post-Brexit trade talks would need to be agreed by October 15 or the UK would leave with no deal at the end of the year.

At the start of 2021, either a trade deal will come into effect or there will be no-deal, meaning the two sides will revert to trading on World Trade Organisation terms.

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