Boris Johnson’s government will soon publish its legal position on its plan to suspend parts of the Northern Ireland Protocol, Foreign Secretary Liz Truss has promised.
The EU has threatened retaliation if the UK goes ahead with legislation to abandon agreed GB-NI controls – insisting the plan would breach the Brexit deal.
“We are very clear that this is legal under international law and we will shortly be issuing a legal statement setting out the Government’s legal position,” Ms Truss told BBC Radio’s 4’s today Program.
Attorney General Suella Braverman has reportedly advised the government that the radical legislative move would be legally sound due to the “inappropriate” way in which protocol reviews have been conducted.
But MPs and legal experts have questioned Ms Truss’s claim in the House of Commons that a proposed bill to streamline controls is “legal under international law”.
“MPs will want to look at the legal advice and know that it is robust and contentious before proceeding with it,” said a former Tory minister The Independent.
“We don’t want to be involved in the same fight again as we did with the Internal Market Act, where ministers are talking about breaking the law on a limited basis.”
Catherine Barnard, Professor of EU Law at Cambridge University, said there was no legal basis for the government’s argument that the Good Friday Agreement took precedence over Protocol provisions.
“The mainstream view is that this is probably inconsistent with international law,” she said. “It will certainly not be compatible with the UK’s withdrawal agreement.”
Ms Truss told the Commons on Tuesday she intended to bring forward the bill – which aims to create a control-free “green lane” for goods coming into NI from the UK – “within weeks”.
The foreign secretary again defended the controversial plans on Wednesday, insisting that action to deal with the “very serious” situation in the region could not be delayed.
She told Times Radio: “We cannot delay providing a solution in Northern Ireland. We didn’t see them [Northern Ireland] Executive form since February. So we need to make these changes. And these changes will… make it better for everyone.”
Irish Deputy Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said the move to not apply parts of the protocol without an agreement with the EU was “not very respectful” of the British people.
Mr Varadkar pointed out that 59 of the 90 MLAs at the Stormont Assembly do not want to give up the protocol and the British public has voted in favor of the Brexit deal, which is currently in effect.
He told RTE: “If they keep trying to force things on Northern Ireland that Northern Ireland doesn’t want, that will drive more people towards nationalism and away from support for the Union… it just seems a bit confusing.”
Asked about possible EU retaliation and the possibility, Mr Varadkar said Britain “must do something” for Brussels to take action.
Mujtaba Rahman, an analyst at consultancy Eurasia Group, said the EU will “not overreact at this stage” as Brussels leaders are aware it could take six to 12 months for the law to get through Parliament.
The expert tells The Independent that he expects the European Commission to start “preparatory work” on possible retaliatory measures – including tariffs and the suspension of the Brexit Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA) – while a bill goes through Parliament.
Labor Chancellor Rachel Reeves said on Wednesday the EU was “overzealous” about controls on goods bound for the UK.
She added: “But the way to solve this is not through megaphone diplomacy, it’s not about tearing up the protocol unilaterally, but by working in partnership to solve these very real problems that are there.”
https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/truss-northern-ireland-protocol-brexit-b2081717.html Liz Truss promises a “legal explanation” soon to overturn the protocol