This afternoon I set out Labour’s opposition to Tory plans to breach international law. Speaking from the Despatch Box, I argued for Labour’s amendments which would have removed the illegal parts of the Bill and protect judicial review to keep Ministers’ actions accountable. Unfortunately, the Government voted against these measures, but we will continue to challenge them as the Bill continues its passage through the House of Commons and the House of Lords.
This Bill reneges on the Withdrawal Agreement, an international treaty signed by Boris Johnson just months ago. Not only is this illegal, breaking international law, it also trashes the UK’s reputation around the world, damaging our prospects of getting a deal with the EU and of forging trade deals with other countries.
The whole mess is completely unnecessary. The Government claim that these measures that break the law are necessary to protect the UK’s internal market after we leave the Brexit transition, but this is not true. The Withdrawal Agreement contains mechanisms in it with which either the UK or the EU could resolve disputes and act to protect themselves through the Joint Committee if issues arrive. The Government’s own Law Officer has resigned over the provisions in this Bill. Their approach is simply political posturing, and it stems from their own incompetence – they didn’t properly read what they were signing at the start of the year.
The Bill has huge and serious implications for the UK’s international standing. The man who I hope will become the next President of the USA, Joe Biden, has said that “We can’t allow the Good Friday Agreement that brought peace to Northern Ireland to become a casualty of Brexit. Any trade deal between the US and UK must be contingent upon respect for the Agreement and preventing the return of a hard border. Period”. His words are echoed by many others and I will continue to work hard to hold this reckless government to account.