Readers of Rye News may be aware of the controversy surrounding the government’s Internal Market Bill which gives the government powers to breach parts of the Brexit withdrawal agreement. Amongst other things, the bill gives the government the power to go back on the Northern Ireland Protocol within the EU Withdrawal Agreement that it signed just nine months ago.
However, your readers may not be aware of the view taken by our own Member of Parliament. In a recent statement (14/9/2020) Sally-Ann Hart says, “I absolutely agree that upholding the rule of law is a fundamental principle. Adhering to obligations under a treaty is part of the rule of law”. Yet within the same statement she also says, “My overriding principle to the Brexit debate is simple – we must get Brexit done . . . The UK Internal Market Bill will help us in this endeavour.”
If members of parliament condone illegality in this way, are they setting an example that could undermine respect for the law more generally and at a time when the electorate is being asked to follow new legal requirements to limit the spread of Covid-19?
Regardless of where one stands on leaving the EU, the government’s preparedness to break international law has been criticised by highly respected lawyers and five former prime ministers. The government’s top lawyer, Sir Jonathan Jones, permanent secretary to the Government Legal Department, resigned because of his disquiet at what the government was preparing to do.
Respecting the rule of law
Even former leader of the Conservative party Michael Howard, a supporter of Brexit, has spoken of the “damage done” to Britain’s reputation for “probity and respect for the rule of law”.
Former Prime Minister John Major recently said, “For generations, Britain’s word — solemnly given — has been accepted by friend and foe. Our signature on any treaty or agreement has been sacrosanct. … If we lose our reputation for honouring the promises we make, we will have lost something beyond price that may never be regained.”
It seems likely that in order to get Brexit done our Member of Parliament is prepared to endorse the breaking of international law. Is this a bridge that should not be crossed? Can the end justify the means?
Image Credits: Tumisu / Pixabay https://pixabay.com/photos/brexit-uk-eu-westminster-3579599/.