British PM Defends New Brexit Bill to Protect UK’s ‘Internal Market’
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson says he plans to “press on” with proposed legislation that explicitly acknowledges his government could break international law by ignoring some parts of the Brexit treaty it signed with the European Union.
Britain plunged Brexit trade talks into crisis Wednesday when it published a bill that says London could ignore parts of the Withdrawal Agreement, which was signed in January, though Johnson said it was only for “technical reasons.”
During “question time” in parliament, Johnson said the bill was “a legal safety net to protect our country against extreme or irrational interpretations” of the Northern Ireland protocol of the Withdrawal Agreement that could threaten peace in the British province.
The bill, if approved, would give ministers the power to ignore parts of the protocol by modifying the form of export declarations and other exit procedures.
European Commission head Ursula von der Leyen expressed strong concern about Britain’s plans, noting it would destroy trust and undermine trade talks.
Britain quit the EU in January but has remained part of its single market, largely free of trade barriers, under a status quo agreement that expires in December.
It has been negotiating a trade deal to take effect from January 1, but the latest talks stalled without an agreement, and Britain has said it is willing to walk away without a deal if it cannot get favorable terms.
Johnson was asked how he could expect people to obey the law if his government was willing to undermine it, Johnson replied in parliament: “We expect everybody in this country to obey the law.”
EU officials have warned that any attempt to undermine the agreement signed in January will have “serious consequences” and have demanded an emergency meeting with the British government to discuss the situation.