PUBLISHED: PUBLISHED: 08:30, Thu, Sep 17, 2020
Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced the Internal Market Bill recently to international furore, with many pro-EU figureheads claiming the bill broke the law-binding withdrawal agreement. The Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis even admitted that the controversial proposed legislation did break the law “in a very specific and limited way”. The bill in question, which was voted through the House of Commons this week, is supposed to allow Northern Ireland “unfettered access” to Britain and protect the UK’s four nations by providing a “legal safety net”.
However, it overrides the withdrawal agreement signed by Downing Street last year — particularly the Northern Ireland Protocol.
The protocol was designed to prevent a hard border on the island of Ireland, and so the UK and the EU agreed to a customs border down the Irish Sea instead.
Northern Ireland would still leave the bloc with the rest of the UK, but would follow the same trade rules as the Republic of Ireland — those of the EU’s single market and customs union.
However, this would be overruled by the Internal Market Bill.
Michael Gove, Boris Johnson in the House of Commons and Dominic Cummings (Image: Getty/ Sky credit)
Gove and Johnson were at the forefront of the Vote Leave campaign back in 2016 (Image: Getty)
Yet, unearthed comments from key Brexiteers suggest that such a controversial move was always in the pipeline for Downing Street.
Conservative MP Steve Baker wrote in the Critic that Dominic Cummings, the Prime Minister’s most senior advisor, had indicated the withdrawal agreement was flexible last year.
The former chairman of the European Research Group claimed in May: “[Cummings] said we should vote for the original withdrawal agreement without reading it, on the basis Michael Gove articulated: we could change it later.”
Indeed, Mr Gove claimed in December 2017: “If the British people dislike the agreement that we have negotiated with the EU, the agreement will allow a future government to diverge.”
Writing in The Telegraph, the then Environment Secretary said “nothing is agreed until everything is agreed”.
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