Former British PMs unite in opposition to Johnson bill

Posted By: September 13, 2020

RTE. Dublin. Sunday, September 13, 2020 
Boris Johnson has been accused of reigniting old rows
Former British prime ministers John Major and Tony Blair have united to urge MPs to reject Boris Johnson’s legislation overriding his Brexit deal, saying it imperils the peace process, trade negotiations and the UK’s integrity.

Labour leader Keir Starmer accused Mr Johnson of having “reigniting old rows” by working to flout his own Withdrawal Agreement, but pledged Labour support if he addresses “substantial” concerns.

Tory rebels suggested their numbers were growing and opinions were only hardened by Mr Johnson’s increased rhetoric that the EU could impose a trade border in the Irish Sea.

Mr Johnson spoke with around 250 MPs on Friday to try to drum up support for the bill, and warned them against a return to the “miserable, squabbling days of last autumn” over Brexit.

In an article for The Telegraph, Mr Johnson said the EU was threatening to use an “extreme interpretation” of the Northern Ireland Protocol to impose “a full-scale trade border down the Irish Sea” that could stop the transport of food from Britain to Northern Ireland.

Mr Major and Mr Blair, the former Conservative and Labour leaders, have united to condemn Mr Johnson’s controversial UK Internal Market Bill in an article for the Sunday Times.

“We both opposed Brexit. We both accept it is now happening. But this way of negotiating, with reason cast aside in pursuit of ideology and cavalier bombast posing as serious diplomacy, is irresponsible, wrong in principle and dangerous in practice,” they said.

“It raises questions that go far beyond the impact on Ireland, the peace process and negotiations for a trade deal – crucial though they are. It questions the very integrity of our nation.”

Mr Starmer called on Mr Johnson to throw out clauses that could breach international law and those that lead the devolved administrations to warn of a “power grab” to get Labour support.

“If the Government fixes the substantial cross-party concerns that have been raised about the Internal Market Bill, then we are prepared to back it,” he wrote in the Sunday Telegraph.

“But if they do not, and the talk collapse, then it is their failure and incompetence that will have let the British people down.”

Minister for Justice Helen McEntee said she would not like to see the UK implementing a bill that could potentially breach international law and damage trust between the UK and Ireland in the Brexit process.

Speaking on Sky News, Minister McEntee called for the UK government to redact the measures in the Internal Markets Bill to ensure that trust is not breached.

She said Northern Ireland First Minister Arlene Foster accepted the Northern Ireland protocol was “an international agreement and something that had to be implemented” and any suggestion it is going to create any new border is simply not true.

Minister McEntee said the protocol ensures there are mechanisms in place to make sure there is no unfair advantage for the UK post-Brexit.