Several Tory Brexiteers have expressed alarm at Boris Johnson’s plan to introduce legislation overriding the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement and are tabling a bill in parliament to counter it.
Former Tory chancellor Lord Norman Lamont and leader Michael Howard have voiced alarm over Boris Johnson’s plans to introduce legislation overriding key elements of the Withdrawal Agreement (WA), which they say would break international law.
The government has come under intense fire for introducing amendments to the internal market bill giving ministers the right to unilaterally interpret the WA.
The move has outraged the EU and led to an emergency meeting between cabinet office minister Michael Gove and European Commission vice-president Maros Sefcovic which ended with Sefcovic issuing the UK with an end-of-month deadline to remove the clauses.
Lord Lamont, who was a minister in Margaret Thatchers government, said the government was in a ‘terrible mess’ and warned the UK internal market bill would not get through the Lords in its present form.
He followed Howard who said that the prime minister had ‘no mandate from the British people to break treaties.’
Speaking on Sky News, the former Tory leader said the UK’s reputation had been ‘severely damaged by what was said on Tuesday and by the bill which is currently before parliament’.
He argued there were ‘ways in which disagreements between the United Kingdom and the European Union can be resolved,’ adding they were contained in the WA.
Meanwhile ERG chair and ardent Brexiteer Bernard Jenkin told LBC radio expressed he was concerned by the prime minister’s disregard for international law.
‘The prime minister should be more mindful of the reputational damage of playing such hardball when there’s really no consensus from the country to go about breaking international agreements,’ he told LBC radio.
In the Commons, senior Tories have begun tabling an amendment to the bill which they said would limit the powers it gave to ministers in relation to the WA.
Senior Tory backbencher Sir Bob Neill, who chairs the Commons Justice Committee, is tabling changes which he said would impose a ‘parliamentary lock’ on any alterations to the Brexit agreement.
Among its supporters are Theresa May’s former deputy, Damian Green.
Former Labour prime minister Gordon Brown described the government’s approach as ‘a huge act of self-harm’.
But Brexiteer Tory former minister Steve Baker told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘I think we should now be willing to repudiate the whole treaty on the basis of the EU’s bad faith. Which in my mind is undoubted.’
The row erupted as the latest round of trade talks – also taking place in London – ended on Thursday with both sides acknowledging that ‘significant differences’ remain.
Johnson has set a deadline of October 15 for an agreement to be reached, otherwise he has said he will simply walk away from the negotiating table.