Britain has been likened to a ‘rogue state’ after threatening to tear up the Withdrawal Agreement by a veteran diplomat.
Lord Kerr of Kinlochard, who served as British ambassador to Washington and Brussels, launched the scathing attack over suggestions the prime minister wants to row back on parts of the agreement relating to Northern Ireland.
Kerr, who wrote Article 50 which triggered the formal withdrawal process, was critical of the government seeking to act unilaterally ‘with a domestic law purporting to over-ride an international commitment’.
‘Tearing up treaties is what rogue states do. I can’t recall our side ever doing so,’ he said.
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Cabinet Office minister Lord True trotted out the government line by saying there were ‘ambiguities’ in the Northern Ireland protocol, intended to ensure there is no return of a hard border with the Republic once the transition is over.
He hoped the issues could be dealt with during the negotiations.
Labour leader in the Lords Baroness Smith of Basildon said Johnson’s proposals had ‘serious implications’ for the UK.
She said: ‘Seeking to unilaterally over-ride a negotiated and signed treaty has serious implications for the trust in which we are held as a nation.
‘Can he tell the House of any other previous occasion when the UK Government has over-ridden a binding treaty that it has ratified?’
Lord True said: ‘We are clear that we are acting fully in accordance with UK law and the UK’s constitutional norms.
‘There are precedents which I will gladly provide to her.’
Liberal Democrat leader in the Lords Lord Newby, meanwhile, warned the proposals will diminish trust in the government even futrther.
He said: ‘How can the EU or indeed any other country with which the UK is currently in negotiations have any trust in this government to follow through on any agreement reached when they are in this case clearly planning to tear up an agreement made only a few months ago?’
Lord True said: ‘There’s no such intention on the part of the government. We will continue to work with the EU … to resolve outstanding issues on the protocol.’