Is our PM lacking good faith? Not according to the chairman of Lawyers for Britain. Read on.
The Prime Minister’s plan to undercut parts of the Brexit divorce treaty has triggered dismay among EU bosses as negotiations for a trade agreement come down to the wire. The devolved administrations in Scotland and Wales are also outraged by the UK Internal Market Bill tabled this week, accusing Mr Johnson of trying to seize power, while his own ministers have said it will breach international law.
But Martin Howe, chairman of Lawyers for Britain, said the government’s UK Internal Market Bill was “needed to maintain the free flow of trade across the nation in the post-Brexit world”.
He made his point with three simple examples to prove why the government’s clauses "will not breach international law”.
Mr Howe said the bill would allow the UK to “protect itself from abusive exercise of treaty powers” by the EU following its departure from the bloc.
Writing for the Daily Telegraph, he said: “There is a general principle of international law that treaty powers should be exercised in good faith, and an EU blockage of reasonable ‘goods at risk’ rules under threat of using the treaty machinery to impose tariffs across the board could be classed as a bad faith exercise of treaty powers.
“The government’s clauses will allow the UK to protect itself from abusive exercise of treaty powers by the EU and are therefore a justified measure under international law.”
Senior EU figures are outraged by the proposal, which Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis admitted would break international law in a "specific and limited way".
But Mr Howe argued the alteration of the constitutional status of Northern Ireland would “breach the core principle of the Good Friday Agreement”.
He said: “Secondly and more fundamentally, the alteration of the constitutional status of NI (which across the board tariffs on GB to NI exports would entail) would breach the core principle of the Good Friday Agreement.
“It is not only an agreement between governments but also with representatives of the communities in Northern Ireland.
“International law does not justify a later treaty to which these community representatives are not parties being used to over-ride the rights they enjoy under the earlier treaty, especially where it involves over-riding such a fundamental right as the right to self determination of the people of NI.”
In his last point, Mr Howe said the UK would not be “undermined by domestic courts having to impose international treaties as interpreted by a foreign court”.
He said: “The EU has a long history of disregarding adverse rulings by WTO disputes bodies, for example on subsidies to Airbus.
“The UK is in a position where our law allows us to ensure that the UK’s negotiating position under international treaties is not undermined by our domestic courts having to impose international treaties as interpreted by a foreign court even where it is contrary to the foundations of our constitution.”
Mr Howe said section 38 of the Withdrawal Agreement “preserves Parliamentary sovereignty” and “makes it quite clear that Parliament has the right to pass the clauses which the government is proposing and thereby override these errant clauses in the Protocol”.
Mr Johnson has argued that the UK Internal Markets Bill tabled this week is necessary to preserve unfettered trade within the UK and prevent a border between Britain and Northern Ireland.
But he has dismayed Brussels by threatening to breach international law.
Irish Taoiseach Micheal Martin called the Prime Minister to express his concerns, including "the breach of an international treaty, the absence of bilateral engagement and the serious implications for Northern Ireland".