Law experts line up to criticise Tory Brexiteer who suggested UK ‘in its rights’ to breach Brexit agreement

Tory MP Desmond Swayne in the House of Commons

Tory MP Desmond Swayne in the House of Commons - Credit: Parliament TV

A Tory Brexiteer has been given a haranguing online after posting a speech justifying Boris Johnson’s violation of the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement (WA).

Desmond Swayne MP said it was fine for a country to break international law “when that obligation is interpreted in such a way as to undermine the very integrity of that country”.

In a Commons speech, Swayne is heard saying: “A threat has been made to the Agreement in such a way as to exclude the possibility of the people of Northern Ireland having access to goods from the rest of the United Kingdom.

“[This is] a threat which clearly shows that those who have made it have abandoned any notion of their binding obligation to negotiate in good faith.

“The government would be utterly negligent if it failed to take precaution to prevent this from arising. It would be outrageous not to do so.”

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He then said: “There is a principle in international law that no country can be bound by an obligation when that obligation is interpreted in such a way as to undermine the very integrity of that country,” and suggested the only court that mattered was “the court of international opinion”.

Swayne’s post sunk like a led balloon.

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One user called Swayne’s speech “absolute rubbish” while others were quick to poke holes through the MP’s argument.

Douglas Lloyd, a barrister, wrote: “I’ve lectured in International Law at undergraduate and postgraduate level. I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

“Almost every international lawyer on Twitter has quote tweeted this to say ‘No, there is not’,” David Allen Green pointed out, who writes and commentates on law and policy. 

Solicitor Simon Evenden added: “As a lawyer and constituent, I can assure you that your grasp of the law, jurisdictions and concepts is best described as clueless. I would suggest the Ladybird book of International Law, but, I anticipate it contains concepts far beyond your intellectual ability.”

“I think he just made that up!” said former Tory MEP Dr Charler Tannock.

Others lapped up Swayne’s dress sense and language. Chris Lowndes wrote: “Is that a 1933 Hugo Boss suit?”

One user shared: “If in doubt, talk twaddle using pompous vocab so that plebs think you’re clever...”

A group of users, however, were keen to elaborate on the Brexiteer’s argument.

Peter MacDonald said: “Isn’t that making a direct case for Scottish independence? Treaty of the Union can now be disregarded under this logic.”

Graham P added: “Remember this when Scotland declares independence next Wednesday.”

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