UK Government Says It Will Break International Law Over Brexit

09 Septembre, 2020, 14:36 | Auteur: Anatole Charbonneau
  • UK Government Says It Will Break International Law Over Brexit

The Republic of Ireland's Minister for Foreign Affairs said Northern Ireland "is too fragile and too important" to be used as a pawn in the broader Brexit negotiations. London has repeatedly said it will respect the withdrawal agreement and Northern Ireland protocol, saying its bill contained only "clarifications".

Taoiseach Micheál Martin said that trust is "fundamental" in the conduct of negotiations.

European Union negotiators will not do anything to appease the British government in the wake of its "gravely concerning" threat to break worldwide law, Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney said on Tuesday.

The controversy centers on the Withdrawal Agreement's requirement that Northern Ireland continues to be bound by the EU's customs rules after Britain leaves the EU's single market and customs union on December 31.

He told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "The decision we've made is to put the peace process first, first and foremost as our absolute top worldwide obligation".

MPs reacted angrily after Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis said on Tuesday that legislation to change the Withdrawal Agreement would go against worldwide law in a "very specific and limited way".

"There are clear precedents for the United Kingdom and indeed other countries needing to consider their global obligations as circumstances change", Lewis said.

"Time is short and action is required now", a Government spokesperson said.

Mr Lewis replied: "I would say to (Sir Bob) that yes this breaks worldwide law in a very specific and limited way".

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Removing a hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland was a key part of the 1998 Good Friday Agreement that brought an end to 30 years of violence in the British-ruled province.

However Health Secretary Matt Hancock insisted the changes were necessary to protect the Northern Ireland peace process if they failed to get a free trade deal with the EU.

"I think that we will and it is in everybody's interest to do so as we did last time, but I also understand why ministers have chosen to prioritise at the absolute top of that the importance of protecting the peace process in Northern Ireland".

But a series of senior Conservatives have expressed dismay, warning the move risks undermining Britain's standing and reputation as an upholder of global law.

Tobias Ellwood, Johnson's Conservative colleague who chairs the House of Commons defence committee, told BBC radio that breaching the Brexit treaty meant Britain would "lose the moral high ground".

Alliance Party leader Naomi Long tweeted: "The Secretary of State for NI has just conceded in Parliament that Govt are about to break global law".

Mr Lewis told MPs it would be in a "very specific and limited way", adding there are "clear precedents" for the United Kingdom and other countries which need to consider their global obligations as circumstances change.

"I'm not sure you can be a little bit illegal".

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