‘Not legal’: Theresa May slams government’s plan to rip up Northern Ireland Brexit deal

'This bill is not, in my view, legal in international law, it will not achieve its aims'

Theresa may

Former prime minister Theresa May ripped into Boris Johnson’s government yesterday, telling the Commons that its legislation to override the Northern Ireland protocol is illegal, ineffectual and highly damaging to the UK’s standing in the world.

May was speaking out as plans to override parts of the Brexit deal were voted on by MPs yesterday, which MPs gave their initial backing to. The legislation moved on to a second reading after passing with a majority of 74.

Extraordinarily, despite early rumours of a rebellion, no Tory MPs voted against the bill. The government is now trying to rip up the very Brexit deal it agreed to, claiming that removing checks on goods travelling from Great Britain to Northern Ireland is necessary to safeguard the Good Friday Agreement as well as peace and stability.

However, given that the UK had already agreed the protocol as part of the Brexit withdrawal agreement, it is now part of international law.

And May says breaking it would be illegal and trash the UK’s international standing.

She said: “The UK’s standing in the world, our ability to convene and encourage others in the defence of our shared values, depends on the respect others have for us as a country, a country that keeps its word, and displays those shared values in its actions.

“As a patriot, I would not want to do anything that would diminish this country in the eyes of the world.

“I have to say to the government, this bill is not, in my view, legal in international law, it will not achieve its aims, and it will diminish the standing of the United Kingdom in the eyes of the world, and I cannot support it.”

Her scathing attack led to praise from opposition politicians, including Green Party MP Caroline Lucas who tweeted: “Absolute masterclass from Theresa May in demolishing the Government case for trashing international law with its N. Ireland Protocol Bill. Legal test of “necessity” manifestly unmet; stated aims won’t be fulfilled by this Bill; and approach diminishes UK standing in eyes of world.”

Basit Mahmood is editor of Left Foot Forward

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