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Monday, September 14, 2020

From 'specific and limited' to acceptable law-breaking

Are there no rationalisations that Tory Ministers will use to justify the government's breaking of international law in the Brexit Bill? 

First we had Brandon Lewis, the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland telling the House of Commons that this legislation, which overrides part of the withdrawal agreement, breaks international law, albeit 'in a very specific and limited way', and now we have the Justice Secretary, whose job is the very definition of observing the law, telling the BBC that he would resign if the law was “broken in a way that I find unacceptable”.

This immediately begs the question, can the law be broken in a way the Justice Secretary does find acceptable? Is there such a legal distinction that will hold up in court? If so, would he care to elucidate? Oh, and does that include the Brexit Bill, which the government has already admitted does break the law?

The publication of the bill on Wednesday, under which key parts of the withdrawal agreement, agreed last year with the EU, would be negated, has infuriated Brussels and prompted a Tory rebellion. The bill’s second reading is today, Labour has confirmed it will vote against it in its current form, what will Tory backbenchers do? 

Buckland, who as justice secretary has taken an oath to uphold the rule of law, faced repeated pressure on the Andrew Marr Show on Sunday to say whether he would consider resigning over the bill. The legislation was a “break the glass in emergency provision if we need it”, Buckland claimed.

Pressed on whether he would walk away from the government, he said: “If I see the rule of law being broken in a way that I find unacceptable then, of course, I will go. We are not at that stage.”

Asked again directly if he would resign if the government breaks international law, Buckland said: “What I will be seeking to do, and indeed the government will be seeking to do, is to resolve that conflict as soon as possible.”

He added: “I don’t believe we’re going to get to that stage. I know in my mind what I have to do. But the government collectively here also has a responsibility, we’ve got to resolve any conflict, that’s what we will do.”

Pressed a further time if he would resign at the point the government actually breaks international law, he said: “I don’t believe we’re going to get to that point and that is why I shall be working very hard to ensure we don’t.”

There is growing discontent among Conservative backbenchers over the bill, with senior Tory MP Sir Bob Neill tabling an amendment to impose a parliamentary lock on any changes to the withdrawal agreement.

The Withdrawal Agreement which the Prime Minister claims is no longer fit for purpose, was the same one that he lauded during the General Election and which secured him his 80 vote majority. The verbal gymnastics being spouted on all channels to try and justify this massive u-turn and the government's law-breaking are getting more and more ludicrous. This whole farce is becoming an embarrassment.

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