Outlaws of Europe

Backlash as Britain breaks law over BREXIT

The five living former prime ministers are united in their condemnation, politicians around the globe express shock and outrage and warn of dire consequences, there are top-level resignations from within its own ranks and from leading civil servants, but the government ploughs on regardless, seemingly determined to break international law.

The Brexit Bill – or Internal Market Bill – if passed into law, would smash the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement, concluded with the European Union last year for the terms of Britain’s exit from the EU. At the time, the treaty was hailed by the government as a ‘negotiating triumph,’ prompting Boris Johnson’s much repeated claim that it would lead to an ‘oven-ready’ trade deal between the UK and Europe.

The deal has not materialised and the government now claims the treaty contained ‘unforeseen’ ambiguities, particularly in regard to the free movement of goods between Northern Ireland and Great Britain.

This, along with the question of retaining an open border on the island of Ireland, was always an area of concern, but the treaty was agreed and subsequently passed into law.

Now the government doesn’t, after all, like that law, and to all intents and purposes appears to be adopting the approach of Mr Bumble, the Dickens character in Oliver Twist who declared that ‘the law is an ass.’ The fall-out at home and across the Atlantic has been monumental.

“The five living former prime ministers are united in their condemnation”

Boris Johnson’s predecessor, Theresa May, warned in the Commons that the bill was a threat to the Good Friday Agreement and could lead to Northern Ireland splitting from the UK. And in a joint statement, former Prime Ministers, Tony Blair and John Major, also said the Good Friday Agreement was at risk and with it, political stability in Ireland.

In contrast, the government claims that breaking international law is necessary to ‘save the Good Friday Agreement,’ but that argument is finding little support.

In America, both Democratic presidential candidate, Joe Biden, and Speaker of the House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, have voiced strong opposition. Mr Biden warned Boris Johnson not to let the Good Friday Agreement become a ‘casualty’ of Brexit, while Ms Pelosi went even further, saying, ‘If the UK violates its international agreements and Brexit undermines the Good Friday accord, there will be absolutely no chance of a UK-US free trade agreement passing the Congress.’

What our surveys show

in the political arena, the beleaguered Boris Johnson and his loyal band of senior ministers have been battered from all sides, including their own, following the shock introduction of the Brexit Bill. But if any were hoping for a crumb or two of comfort as regards public opinion, they had better look away now.

A mere 20% of those surveyed find the intention to breach international law acceptable, with 59% saying it is unacceptable and a further 21% saying they don’t know.

Amongst young voters, specifically those in Generation Z, the verdict is even more damning, with 75% against the government’s approach, while only 3% find it acceptable. And with the coronavirus crisis deepening and the public expected to instantly obey tough new laws such as the ‘rule of six,’ a full 68% of those surveyed find the government’s approach to law breaking hypocritical.

And even though the Brexit Bill aims to avoid any sort of border between Britain and Northern Ireland, it gets an overall thumbs down, with 60% believing the ‘least worst’ outcome of a no-deal Brexit would be a soft trade border in the Irish Sea, rather than a hard border on the island of Ireland itself.

Surveys

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