Boris Johnson is facing a huge rebellion from his own Conservative Party ministers against his plans to override parts of the Brexit withdrawal agreement, with MPs today beginning a debate in the House of Commons on the controversial legislation.
Geoffrey Cox, Johnson’s former attorney general, has struck out at the prime minister’s plan to override the Brexit deal as Tory opposition to the controversial legislation grew.
Mr Cox, who backed Leave in the referendum campaign, said it was “unconscionable” that the UK should seek to break international law by rewriting the withdrawal agreement with the European Union.
He further warned that he wouldn’t back the Internal Market Bill unless ministers dispel the impression they plan to “permanently and unilaterally” rewrite an international agreement, with tariffs and customs procedures on certain goods entering Northern Ireland from Britain were part of the deal. Mr Cox added if the powers in the Bill were used to “nullify those perfectly plain and foreseeable consequences” then it would amount to the “unilateral abrogation of the treaty obligations”.
The former attorney general wrote in The Times: “When the Queen’s minister gives his word, on her behalf, it should be axiomatic that he will keep it, even if the consequences are unpalatable.
“What ministers should not do, however, provoked or frustrated they may feel about an impasse in negotiations, is to take or use powers permanently and unilaterally to rewrite portions of an international agreement into which this country freely entered just a few months ago.”
The rebellion from Boris Johnson’s own ministers comes as businesswoman Gina Miller accused the Prime Minister of asking the Queen to “put her name to an Act that would break international law”, something that would “mar her legacy as someone whose life has been dedicated to the rules-based order”.
The Queen wrote: “Many elements of the Internal Markets Bill are necessary as we reverse 40+ years of membership of the European Union, and the Prime Minister is respecting Parliamentary sovereignty by placing the Bill before Parliament.
“However, the position he is potentially placing the Queen in is as distasteful as it is disrespectful.
“The third stage of any legislation is the Crown must agree to the legislation through the prerogative of Royal Assent. This is normally a formality as the sovereign body of the United Kingdom is not Parliament, but the Crown-in-Parliament.
“The last time Royal Assent was refused was in 1708, under Queen Anne, when she rejected the Scottish Militia Bill on the advice of ministers. In 1914, George V very nearly withheld the assent to the Irish Home Rule Bill but was persuaded not to, again on ministerial advice.
“The tables are now turned as it would be her own Prime Minister who would be necessarily advising her to break international law. The Government could be placing the Queen in the middle of a major constitutional crisis by demanding her approval for her government to break international law.”
Meanwhile, a trade union boss warned the government that the end of the furlough scheme could trigger mass redundancies.