The British government has been accused of creating a “rogue state” as it published a bill to violate the Irish protocol of the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement, an international treaty.
Britain’s Direct Ruler in Ireland, Brandon Lewis, has brazenly admitted in the Westminster parliament that the Tories’ ‘Internal Market Bill’ breaks international law.
“This does break international law in a very specific and limited way,” Lewis told MPs.
The bill, published today, would tear up the protocol aimed at preventing a remilitarisation of the north of Ireland. If passed, it will override the Irish protocol to support the primacy of “unfettered access” between the Six Counties and Britain and the “integrity and smooth operation of the internal market of the United Kingdom”.
One sweeping clause declares that the changes “are not to be regarded as unlawful on the grounds of any incompatibility or inconsistency with relevant international or domestic law”.
The bill runs directly contrary to plans for the Six Counties to operate within EU customs and market regulations in order to avoid a hard border through Ireland.
Alliance Party leader Naomi Long said the evidently false depiction of the move as illegal in only a “specific and limited” manner, was like claiming to be “a little bit pregnant”.
To the fury of Scottish and Welsh nationalists, the bill also undermines the devolved assemblies in Edinburgh and Cardiff by returning a range of powers from Brussels directly to Westminster.
Speaking at the London parliament today, the leader of the Scottish Nationalists, Ian Blackford, noted the legislation clearly breaks both international and domestic British law. “This PM and his friends – a parcel o’ rogues - are creating a rogue state, where the rule of law does not apply,” he said.
With a hard Brexit in January now looking almost certain, Sinn Féin’s Chris Hazzard said the British government had shown a disregard for the North and was not moving to remove the “only safety net” for the Six Counties.
He welcomed further strong support today from the US Ways and Means Committee for the Good Friday Agreement after Chairperson Richie Neal said it must be defended from the threat of Brexit.
“As the Brexit clock ticks, any attempt by the British government to renege on what has already been negotiated and agreed through the Irish Protocol would be an indefensible act of bad faith,” he said.
“The Withdrawal Agreement is an international agreement and it must be maintained and protected in order to protect our economy and our peace agreements.”
As he prepared to speak directly by phone to British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Taoiseach Micheál Martin said he was “extremely concerned” at the turn of events.
“The degree to which it drags Northern Ireland back into the centre stage is very, very regrettable. It has the potential to be divisive in that context,” Mr Martin told reporters.
Mr Martin said the admission that London intends to break the Brexit treaty had “taken a lot of people aback” across Europe and indeed within the UK”. The Taoiseach claimed their explicit disregard for international law was “a new departure”, and also raised doubts over whether Britain would adhere to any future deal.
The Tories “didn’t display any subtly,” he said. “I haven’t quite witnessed a member of any government go into a parliament and say we are going to break international law.”