Burnley MP backs contentious Bill which would 'break international law'

Burnley MP Antony Higginbotham has pledged his support to a Government bill which a senior colleague has admitted would "break international law".

Monday, 14th September 2020, 4:03 pm
Updated Monday, 14th September 2020, 4:04 pm

The contentious UK Internal Markets Bill, a piece of legislation which will override parts of the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement, has already led to the resignation of the permanent secretary to the Government Legal Department, Sir Jonathan Jones, who announced he was resigning from government in light of the bill.

Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis conceded in the House of Commons it would go against the treaty in a "specific and limited way".

But Burnley MP Antony Higginbothm backed the Bill, and Prime Minister Boris Johnson, which he said would "protect and strengthen the union of the UK."

Burnley MP Antony Higginbotham

Mr Higginbotham, who was elected in December, said: "This delivers on the promise I made in the General Election to protect and strengthen the union of the UK.

"The EU's demands on the NI Protocol are not only unreasonable but risk undermining the territorial, economic and political integrity of Northern Ireland in the UK, whilst at the same time doing enormous damage to the Good Friday Agreement. That is something none of us could allow.

"The EU needs to adopt a much more realistic approach to future relationship negotiations and implementation of the NI protocol. If they do this, we can go on to a bright and prosperous future together.

"The Bill provides a clear fallback, protecting Northern Ireland's position in the UK if an agreement can't be reached. And, more than that, it backs businesses across the country in ensuring products made in one part can be sold in another. That's vital for our local businesses and farmers.”

The Withdrawal Agreement, and Northern Ireland Protocol, committed both the UK and EU to working towards a solution to how goods and services and people can move freely between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, including the mainland UK. It set out that it must be done "in good faith" by both parties and crucially in a way that respects the Good Friday agreement.

However, as the date by which the UK said any agreement must be concluded approaches, the Government believes that the EU is testing the limits of what "good faith" means. One issue is on EU approval for UK food standards, with the EU refusing to list the UK as a safe third country despite others on the list including Afghanistan and Angola.

Several former Prime Ministers, including Theresa May, Tony Blair and John Major, have all voiced their objection to the Bill, believing it would damage the UK's reputation.