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Boris Johnson’s government allowed it to rewrite portions of the Brexit divorce according to legislation published on Wednesday, which was signed with the European Union last year. The move to tear down a part of an international treaty has led to a tussle in Brussels and could thwart attempts to secure a major trade deal between the two sides. According to the Scottish jurist Ian Blackford, it risks Britain being a “rogue state”.
Here’s why the new law is so controversial.
Will Britain break international law?
Yes, the government says it is seeking power to undo sections of the Northern Ireland Protocol, part of a legally binding withdrawal agreement that it signed with the European Union in January.
Crucially, the bill states that it “will have effect despite inconsistencies or inconsistencies with international or other legal law.”
Senior patrons have warned that a stay on an international treaty could harm Britain’s standing in other disputes abroad, including implementing a national security law in Hong Kong with China.
What specifically has Johnson done?
He is stepping back from policies affecting Northern Ireland that he signed till As part of the Brexit withdrawal agreement. The protocol is designed to prevent a difficult border on the island of Ireland, at the cost of creating a customs border in the Irish Sea.
The Internal Markets Bill will give UK ministers this right:
- Wave customs paperwork at trade crossings between Northern Ireland and Great Britain
- Goods entering Northern Ireland will be unilaterally defined as having no trade deal with the European Union until the end of the Brexit transition period on 31 December.
- Violation of EU state aid rules contained in the Northern Ireland Protocol.
All three issues are highly sensitive to the European Union and, prior to Johnson’s intervention, were still involved in joint discussions. The block is particularly concerned that the cargo may enter its single market uncontrolled through the 310 mile land border with Northern Ireland. It is also concerned that UK subsidies will put EU companies at a competitive disadvantage.
How has the EU responded so far?
With measured anger. The European Union has called for emergency talks, and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said the move “undermines trust.” The question now is whether it will poison the wider trade talks between the UK and the Bloc. It is expected that Michel Barnier will comment on the law when the latest round of discussions begin later this week.
What else can the European Union do?
It may refer to the violation of the withdrawal agreement of a tribunal and eventually the European Court of Justice. While such a dispute would occur in previous years, a finding in favor of the EU would allow the cancellation of any provision of any treaty with Britain.
According to preliminary analysis of the UK bill, the European Union already sees a case for opening infringement proceedings.
Why is Johnson taking such a risk?
Johnson has reiterated that trade between Northern Ireland and Great Britain should be scrapped after Brexit, and he considers the move necessary to secure this goal. If the UK and the EU do not come to an agreement by the end of the year, all goods entering Great Ireland from Great Britain may have to pay tariffs, a situation which the UK government says is unacceptable.
But the Prime Minister also wants to break away from the EU state aid rules – a situation that has become the biggest obstacle to reaching a comprehensive agreement on their future relations.
Downing Street is concerned that the Northern Ireland Protocol may threaten its plans to provide state aid to British businesses. Potentially, the EU could prohibit subsidies to a company in England, Wales or Scotland that could help or hurt a business in Northern Ireland, which would still have to comply with the bloc’s state aid rules after 31 December .
It could also be a negotiating strategy to encourage the EU to back down from its demand that the UK sign till Its state aid rules in exchange for any trade agreement.
Could Parliament stop it?
Clearly, given that Johnson holds a majority of 80 seats in the House of Commons. But he could face a fight in the House of Lords. Former Deputy Prime Minister Michael Heseltine told Times Radio on Wednesday that the legislation has not received the “ghost of a chance” of being approved by the Upper House – but does not have a full veto; Under the Act of Parliament, it can delay legislation approved by the House of Commons for only one year.
Can he face a legal challenge in the UK?
This is unlikely to happen in the immediate future at least. One of the leading lawyers who brought a successful challenge against the plan to suspend Johnson – or last year’s parliament – says it will be tough this time. Jolian Maugham said that Britain’s unwritten constitution rests on the concept of parliamentary sovereignty. If lawmakers approve of the law, the judiciary’s ability to be involved is “very limited indeed, if not non-existent,” said Magham.
Gina Miller, a campaigner who has successfully challenged the government in the courts over Brexit, said she is on “high alert”, speaking on ITV’s “Peston”. But she also said that she is waiting for what happens, and the government is still doing the asana.
Another route may be to question whether any violation of international law violates the Ministerial Code, all government ministers should follow standards of conduct. However, the rule book is implemented by the Prime Minister.
What else is in the internal market bill?
The draft legislation also includes measures to curb trade barriers in the UK after Brexit. When Britain was in the European Union, policy areas were developed for administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, broadly following EU law. Out of the block and able to use their powers, Westminster established its own rules, facing the prospect of individual nations – something that could disrupt internal trade. Blackford’s Scottish National Party, which campaigns for independence, has already criticized the bill as an attack on deviance.