Matt Hancock says he is comfortable with No 10 law-breaking - but says public must not do so

Health Secretary Matt Hancock giving a statement to MPs in the House of Commons. Photograph: PA Wire.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock giving a statement to MPs in the House of Commons. Photograph: PA Wire. - Credit: Archant

Matt Hancock has said he is 'comfortable' with the fact the UK is willing to break international law on the EU withdrawal agreement.

The health secretary made the comments hours after he announced new social distancing restrictions.

When asked by Times Radio if he was comfortable with a minister saying the UK was willing to break international law, he replied: 'I am.'

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He continued: 'The primary international obligation around this issue is to protect the peace process in Northern Ireland and I very much hope we conclude a deal before the end of the transition period.

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'I think that we will and it is in everybody's interest to do so as we did last time, but I also understand why ministers have chosen to prioritise at the absolute top of that the importance of protecting the peace process in Northern Ireland.'

Asked if individuals would be allowed to break the new laws on social distancing 'in a limited and specific way' – the way the government claims to be planning to do with the EU Withdrawal Agreement - he disagreed.

'No, this is incredibly important for keeping people safe, it is incredibly important for stopping the spread and therefore protecting education, protecting work.

'Obviously we are trying to protect livelihoods and protect education while stopping the spread of the virus.'

Hancock said that the series of changes made as the UK lifted lockdown restrictions had made the rules on social gatherings 'more complicated than they needed to be'.

'We are making this change to make (the rules) super simple,' he said.

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