Britain’s former Prime Minister Theresa May warned on Monday against Downing Street’s “reckless” and “irresponsible” Internal Market Bill that would give Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government the power to retreat from some of its obligations with respect to the special protocol for Northern Ireland in the Brexit deal, the Guardian reported.
May, who serves now as a backbencher in the House of Commons, argued that Johnson’s bill violates international law, adding that such a move would risk “the integrity of the United Kingdom” and harm the nation’s reputation globally as an upholder of the law, and that it could contribute to a reunited Ireland.
“I cannot emphasise enough how concerned I am [that] the Conservative government is willing to go back on its word to break an international agreement signed in good faith, and to break international law,” May said during a speech in the House of Commons, as quoted by The Guardian.
The former prime minister also suggested that breaking international law would risk other countries’ trust in the UK government in future negotiations, adding “so much for global Britain”.
May provided three reasons why clauses 41 to 45 had “no place” in Johnson’s bill and could weaken support for Westminster in Northern Ireland.
“That, in turn will lead to some communities having less willingness to trust the United Kingdom government and that would have a consequence on the willingness of people in Northern Ireland to remain part of the United Kingdom,” the former prime minister said. “So, far from acting to reinforce the integrity of the United Kingdom, in pursuit of trying to appear to be tough to the European Union, I think the government is putting the integrity of the United Kingdom at risk.”
What is the Bill About?
The Internal Market Bill, which was introduced two weeks ago and passed in the House of Commons last Monday, does not impose or bar trade restrictions, instead, it includes three clauses that would give British ministers the power to modify or “disapply” any new trade measures that might be put into place in January 2021, after the end of Brexit transitional period.
The proposed legislation addresses the Northern Ireland Protocol - an element of the deal designed to prevent a hard border from returning to the island of Ireland. The bill proposes no new checks on goods moving from Northern Ireland to Great Britain.