The Prime Minister is facing heated backlash from a myriad of sources over potential new controversial bill set to undermine Brexit deal, and threaten to compromise the Irish Border agreement
On Wednesday 9th of September, Johnston received growing backlash and condemnation regarding the pressing ahead of a controversial bill that would unglue and undermine aspects of the UK’s Brexit treaty, resulting in legal action from Brussels expected to be laid out in the coming days.
On Wednesday the European Commission confirmed that Johnston’s plans violated the treaty between the UK and the EU, stating in an internal analysis paper that the plans amounted to ‘a clear breach of the substantive provisions’ agreed upon concerning Northern Ireland as part of 2019’s deal between the EU and Boris Johnston.
The controversy centralises on agreed protocols concerning Northern Ireland’s borders with the UK- the aim was to avoid a “hard” border between Northern Ireland in the UK, and the Republic of Ireland, which remains within the EU as a member.
Representatives from the EU, the UK, Northern Ireland, and the Republic of Ireland all agreed that hey did not wish to return to physical border checks or other infrastructure that could hinder the free trade and movement between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.
The writing in of this protocol for Ireland binds it legally to the treaty signed between the EU and the UK- if not honoured, and contested like Johnston is doing, the UK will be breaking international law, and violating a treaty it willingly agreed upon.
Perhaps willingly is too bold; the Irish problem continued and indeed continues throughout Brexit negotiations, with accusations levelled at the UK multiple times regarding their desire to maintain access to the single market and renegotiations of trade deals despite voting by a marginal majority to leave the EU.
In trade talks, Northern Ireland was to keep access to the single market given their unique crisis of the dichotomy between the Northern Ireland/Republic of Ireland split, and their trade with both the UK, the EU, and between themselves.
The Internal Market Bill would give ministers the right to overrule or ignore EU customs law and give them power to interpret the meaning of protocols given by the EU in exchange for Northern Ireland’s access to the single market.
For example, the EU has stipulated that the UK has to follow EU rules on state aid- the financial support governments give to businesses- for goods related to Northern Ireland. The Internal Market Bill would allow ministers to overrule and interpret this protocol.
This firmly puts the UK in stark breach of the international treaty signed in in 2019.
Responses from the UK Government suggest that they are seeking to clarify the terms of the Northern Ireland protocol to avoid further disruption.
However, the EU disagrees, articulating that the UK Internal Market Bill is a tool to change parts of a recently agreed international treaty.
The Internal Market Bill has not come into law, merely in the proposition stages.
The very fact that the UK does not have a solid Brexit strategy is politically unsound to say the least. Arguments continue to rage over customs and tariffs on goods, imports, exports, and access to markets, and when progress is potentially made, the current Westminster Conservative majority seeks to undermine what it has legally signed and agreed with.
Point scoring is undeniable on both sides. However, according to Lorand Bartels, an expert on International Law at Cambridge University, this is a unique breach of international law.
He stated that, “I cannot think of any other legislation that expressly states that it permits violating a treaty.”
Brexit continues to be a minefield of negotiation- in light of these recent violations concerning the Irish economy, a distinctly disconcerting feeling of dread continues to mount as the deadline looms, and our leaders are seemingly no closer to solid agreements. It is not apparent what repercussions will be taken against Johnston’s government for the proposal of a bill which violates International law- it is important to stress that the bill has not become law- yet.
Feature Image Credit: AP