Doubts raised over legality of the government’s Northern Ireland Protocol bill

Just days after his integrity was questioned by his own MPs in a vote of no-confidence, Johnson is now bringing forward legislation that may well break international law.

As Boris Johnson reels from crisis to crisis, and just days after his integrity was questioned by his own MPs in a vote of no-confidence, he is now bringing forward legislation that is likely to break international law.

As part of efforts to distract from his party’s incompetence and throw some more red meat to appease the Tory membership and Brexiteers, the government is planning on bringing forward legislation that would give it powers to scrap sections of the Brexit deal involving Northern Ireland, which the government had previously itself agreed to.

The Northern Ireland Protocol, which remains an issue of contention between the UK and EU had been designed to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland, however it has resulted in new barriers to trade between Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

Checks on some goods entering Northern Ireland from Great Britain are now required, which unionists claim undermines Northern Ireland’s position in the UK and could lead to an economic united Ireland.

Should Downing Street unilaterally decide to override parts of the protocol, it could lead to a further straining of relationships between Britain and the EU as well as a trade war.

Now, correspondence seen by PoliticsHome has cast doubt over the government’s claims that its plans to unilaterally override parts of the post-Brexit treaty without an agreement with the European Union would not breach international law.

Adam Payne reports that despite Suella Braverman, the attorney general, approving the plan, having concluded that it was legal, concerns have been raised at the top of government over the legality of the government’s legislation.

PoliticsHome reports: “In the leaked correspondence, a senior figure advising the government on legal matters says they hold the view that it cannot be “credibly” argued on legal grounds there is currently no alternative to unilaterally disapplying the treaty, and that it is “very difficult” for the ministers to make that case.”

There are also reports that there could be a significant Tory rebellion against the legislation amongst the 148 MPs who voted no confidence in Mr Johnson.

Responding to the news, former Tory MP Rory Stewart tweeted: “In the week he’s been indicted by his own party for lack of integrity, Johnson brings forward a bill to break international law – rewriting the rules as he did with Paterson, ministerial code, partygate. It won’t help NIreland + it will further trash our international reputation.”

Basit Mahmood is editor of Left Foot Forward

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