Ministers are planning on overriding parts of the Brexit withdrawal agreement with a bill that could be potentially “inconsistent” with it
The controversial Internal Market Bill had been published yesterday after the government admitted it wanted to potentially “break international law”.
The bill is intended to distribute powers that are being brought back from Brussels to Westminster, as well as the devolved administrations within Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
But key components of the bill may potentially contradict the Brexit withdrawal agreement that had passed in parliament last year, by letting cabinet ministers hand the power to themselves in order to determine the rules on state aid, as well as goods travelling between Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
This comes after the Prime Minister’s reported plan to scrap parts of his Brexit withdrawal deal “does break international law”, a cabinet minister has admitted, as the head of the UK government’s legal department has resigned due to his concerns about the plan.
The draft legislation says: “Certain provisions to have effect notwithstanding inconsistency or incompatibility with international or other domestic law.”
It adds any parts of the Brexit deal which contradict it “cease to be recognised and available in domestic law”.
And it contains an extraordinary list of precedents the new law would override, including “any other legislation, convention or rule of international or domestic law whatsoever, including any order, judgement or decision of the Europe Court or of any other court or tribunal”.
Details of the plans were reported earlier in the week by the Financial Times, drawing sharp criticism from Conservative MPs led by former the prime minister Theresa May, who has asked how other countries would be sure that the UK “can be trusted to abide by the legal obligations of the agreements it signs”.
Soon after the plans were finalised, the EU Council’s President, Ursulla Von-der Leyen, condemned the bill in stern terms.
“Very concerned about announcements from the British government on its intentions to breach the withdrawal agreement,” she tweeted.
“This would break international law and undermines trust. Pacta sunt servanda = the foundation of prosperous future relations.”
Charles Michel, president of the EU Council, added: “Breaking international law is not acceptable and does not create the confidence we need to build our future relationship.”
This comes after Jim Harra, HMRC’s top civil servant, has said that his staff believe that between 5% and 10% of the furlough cash could have been handed out wrongly, either through deliberate fraud or through an error.
Angry reactions have also emerged within the UK, with Mark Drakeford, the First Minister of Wales, referring to it as a “grim day for those that believe in the UK” given that the bill “favours those” who would want to see the union “broken up”.
And Dominic Grieve, the former attorney general, who was kicked out of the Conservatives for opposing the idea of a no-deal Brexit, said to Sky News: “It will have very serious representational consequences. I could almost weep over it.”