Brandon Lewis contradicts cabinet colleagues by insisting Brexit bill WILL break international law

Tory MP Simon Hoare questions cabinet secretary Brandon Lewis on the government's Brexit bill

Tory MP Simon Hoare (L) questions cabinet secretary Brandon Lewis on the government's Brexit bill. Photograph: Parliament TV.

Northern Ireland minister Brandon Lewis has dismissed claims that Boris Johnson’s Brexit bill will not break international law, adding the government’s legal advice states it clearly will.

Speaking to a Commons committee on Northern Ireland, Lewis contradicted home secretary Priti Patel and Tory peer Richard Keen - the Tory advocate general for Scotland - over the legality of prime minister’s Brexit bill.

On Tuesday, Patel told Sky News the internal market bill would “absolutely not” break international law. Meanwhile, on the same day, Lord Keen told the Lords: “It is my view that the secretary of state for Northern Ireland essentially answered the wrong question.

“We are in a situation in which we have rights under an international treaty. Those rights include our response to any breach of obligations by the counter-party, be that a lack of good faith or such action as would fundamentally alter the obligations under the treaty giving rise to a position… where we could withhold our operation of the treaty.”

Addressing those concerns, Lewis said: “I’ve spoken to Lord Keen and looking at the specific question my honourable friend asked me last week, he agrees I gave the correct answer.”

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The chair replied: “So you were answering the question [that] in a limited way the proposals do breach international legal agreements?”

“The government’s legal advice is very clear on this and the answer I gave was a very clear answer to a very specific question,” Lewis responded.

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“So, why do you think the home secretary and attorney general think that you either answered the right question in the wrong way or the wrong question in the right way?” the chair probed.

“Well, I’ve spoken to Lord Keen and it’s fair to say that when he looked at the specific question that I asked last week that he’s in agreement with me that the answer I gave was correct,” Lewis reiterated.

Lewis then urged ministers to review the government’s legal advice on the bill.

Lewis then added: “If you look at what Lord Keen said at the sub-committee, you’ll find they were entirely in line with the points I was making last week throughout the UQ [Urgent Question].”

The chair said he was disappointed by Lord Keen’s “accuracy”.

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