Labour leader Keir Starmer is considering “potential amendments” to the UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s new UK Internal Market Bill amid “serious concerns” about the new legislation.
The controversial legislation which looks to override elements of the PM’s Brexit deal with Brussels and breach international law has now been published. Downing Street insists changes in the Internal Market Bill were simply “limited clarifications” to protect the Northern Ireland peace process if they failed to secure a free trade deal with the EU.
Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis slammed the when he confirmed to MPs the legislation would breach international law in a “very specific and limited way”
A spokesman for Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said, “The Bill has just been published and we will publish a full response as soon as possible and look at any potential amendments.
“There are obviously serious concerns about the contents of the Bill, the implications on devolution and the implications on the Northern Ireland Protocol.”
He said Labour was particularly concerned at potential breaches in the ministerial code if civil servants have been directed to break the law over the Withdrawal Agreement.
Sir Keir had earlier advised Mr Johnson not to “reopen old wounds” and to instead “get a deal, move on and concentrate on defeating coronavirus“.
The Bill is intended to ensure Northern Ireland can continue to enjoy unfettered access to markets in the rest of the UK.
Mr Lewis said the move the Government was taking would enable ministers to “dis-apply” the EU legal concept of “direct effect” – which requires the enforcement of EU law – in “certain, very tightly defined circumstances”.
Former prime minister Theresa May also warned that the Government was in danger of losing the trust of other countries that it would honour its international agreements, while Labour described the admission as “absolutely astonishing”.
Reports have shown that Mr Johnson’s plans will see the pound plummet against the US dollar as chances of securing a post-Brexit free trade deal with the EU appear to diminish even further, this follows the unexpected announcement that the head of the Government Legal Department Sir Jonathan Jones had become the latest senior civil servant to quit his post.
Influential Irish-American US Congressman Richard Neal has advised the UK to “uphold the rule of law” and warned that any US-UK trade deal would be dependent on protecting the Good Friday Agreement.
Mr Neal, who chairs the country’s Ways and Means Committee which oversees trade deals, said in a statement: “The United States is a guarantor of that historic peace accord, which was approved by the people of Ireland, north and south, in an unprecedented referendum.
“Every political party on the island opposes a return of a hard border. I sincerely hope the British government upholds the rule of law and delivers on the commitments it made during Brexit negotiations, particularly in regard to Irish border protocols.”
After Mr Neal’s intervention, SDLP leader Colum Eastwood tweeted: “Good luck getting a trade deal with the US Boris Johnson if you mess with the Protocol and Good Friday Agreement.”
Downing Street said Mr Johnson will speak to Irish Prime Minister Micheal Martin later today amid concerns for the Good Friday Agreement around the latest Brexit planning.
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “We are committed to the implementation to both the Withdrawal Agreement and the Northern Ireland Protocol.”