(London) Faced with a sling within his own camp, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Monday invoked the defense of the integrity of the United Kingdom to convince MPs to approve his plan to reverse certain commitments made in the context of Brexit.
France Media Agency
The bill contradicts by the very admission of power international law and angered Europeans, who threatened to launch a legal action, at a critical phase of negotiations to reach a free agreement -post-Brexit exchange.
He also caused an uproar in the British political class, making the British Parliament revive the heated debates which marked the more than four years since the referendum of 2016.
Opening several days of marathon debates in the House of Commons, the leader of the Conservative government deemed his text “essential to maintain the political and economic integrity of the United Kingdom”.
Boris Johnson accused the European Union of using the provisions intended to guarantee peace in Northern Ireland as a “lever” in the current negotiations to find a free trade agreement and of threatening to create ” a customs border in our own country ”. His bill represents a “safety net”, an “insurance policy” which the country will not have to use if London and Brussels can come to an agreement.
“No British Prime Minister, no government, no Parliament could accept” such conditions, he argued, responding in particular to the criticisms formulated by five predecessors, from John Major to Theresa May.
If Boris Johnson has a large majority that makes it unlikely that the text will be rejected in the first vote on Monday night, rebel MPs could provide decisive support next week for an amendment that would limit the government’s powers over any breach of the Brexit agreement.
The bill contradicts parts of the EU withdrawal agreement that Boris Johnson signed less than a year ago before campaigning by touting the success of a “fantastic” bill.
The Treaty provides for specific customs provisions for Northern Ireland, intended in particular to avoid the reestablishment of a physical border between the Republic of Ireland, a member of the EU, and the British province, in accordance with peace agreement of 1998 which ended three bloody decades.
Northern Ireland must remain subject to certain European provisions for four years, in particular concerning trade in goods. But for London, the EU is threatening to refuse to put the UK on the list of countries allowed to export food products to this territory which is part of it, which would prevent imports into Northern Ireland from the rest of the country. .
“It’s his agreement”, “his bazaar”, “his failure”, declared for the Labor opposition the deputy Ed Miliband, throwing a Boris Johnson who “for the first time in his life” must ” take his responsibilities “.
The rebellion among the Conservatives escalated on Monday with criticism from Geoffrey Cox, a former attorney general (legal adviser to the government) conservative and pro-Brexit, and former finance minister Sajid Javid, who resigned from the Johnson government in February.
Despite the strong tensions caused by the text, British and European negotiators are continuing discussions on a free trade agreement.
They are due to resume this week in Brussels, but an eighth session last week did not allow any major breakthrough on the main bottlenecks, namely London’s respect for rules avoiding creating unfair competition at the gates of the EU and the conditions for European fishermen’s access to UK waters.
The two parties affirmed that an agreement should be concluded in October to avoid a “no deal” which would result in customs duties between the United Kingdom and the European bloc and would risk worsening the economic crisis history caused by the novel coronavirus.