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Sunday, September 13, 2020

Major and Blair unite to condemn Brexit Bill

Today's Sunday Times has an unprecedented joint comment article by two former Prime Ministers, who in their day were despatch box and political rivals.

In a sign of how seriously some are taking the breach of trust and breaking of international law inherent in the Brexif Bill, Tony Blair and John Major have jointly authored a piece calling on the UK government to drop the controversial clauses or face a revolt from MPs.

The Brexit Bill they argue, completely trashes key clauses in the Withdrawal Agreement, on which Johnson won his 80 seat majority, and undermines the Good Friday Agreement, threatening peace in Northern Ireland. It also kills off anu hope of a trade deal with the EU, worth £300 billion in exports, 43% of all our exported goods:

Yet what is being proposed now is shocking. How can it be compatible with the codes of conduct that bind ministers, law officers and civil servants deliberately to break treaty obligations? As we negotiate new trade treaties, how do we salvage credibility as “global Britain” if we so blatantly disregard our commitments the moment we sign them?

The government seeks to do so by the extraordinary pretence that breaking international law is necessary to “save the Good Friday agreement”, which has given us peace in Northern Ireland for more than two decades and utterly changed the relationship between the UK and its nearest neighbour, the Republic of Ireland.

We disagree. The government’s action does not protect the Good Friday agreement — it imperils it.

They are particularly excoriating abour Boris Johnson:

When the government renegotiated the withdrawal treaty and urged MPs to pass it into domestic law, it did so in full knowledge of the consequences of doing so. These were that Northern Ireland would have to comply with some EU rules to keep the border open, including those on state aid, and that, as a result, new barriers to trade would arise between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK.

That was the unavoidable price of Britain leaving the single market and customs union, while wishing to avoid the imposition of a new hard border on the island of Ireland.

To claim now that the government has only just discovered this consequence is a nonsense, for it was the prime minister himself who negotiated it.

They add that if parliament passes this bill, the UK is bound to end up before the European Court of Justice which, under the Northern Ireland protocol, retains jurisdiction over EU rules. What if the UK loses? Do we defy the ruling? What value our international word then? Has any of this been thought through?

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