David Cameron becomes the fifth former prime minister to criticize a new bill that attempts to bypass the EU withdrawal agreement.
No 10 says the Home Market Act has been “significant UK legislation”.
But Cameron said he had “concerns” about this and that breaking an international treaty should be a “last resort.”
Former Conservative prime ministers Theresa May, Sir John Major, Tony Blair and Labor Gordon Brown have condemned the plan.
However, a spokesperson for Boris Johnson said the bill provided a “vital legal safety net” so that the government could “take steps to ensure the safety of the UK’s internal market” – steps it hopes will never have to use.
Representatives will discuss the bill at its second reading from 16:30 GMT (15:30 GMT), with the prime minister making opening remarks, and it is expected that it will pass at this early stage after voting at around 22:00.
But the legislation is likely to face more difficulties in its later stages, especially when the bill is headed for debate in the House of Lords.
Former Attorney General Jeffrey Cox accused Johnson of causing “unreasonable” damage to Britain’s international reputation and said he would “withhold” his support for the bill in its current form.
The Prime Minister’s Special Envoy for Freedom of Religion or Belief, Conservative MP Rahman Chishti. Resigned due to the proposed law, Saying, “I have always acted in a way that respects the rule of law … [and] Voting for this law as it stands now would be contrary to the values that I hold dear. ”
A senior government source told the BBC that “all options are on the table” in terms of possible actions against Conservative MPs who do not support the bill.
And Labor Minister in the Shadows, Ed Miliband, called the proposed law “legislative riot”.
Miliband will replace Sir Keir Starmer in the opposition dispatch box after the Labor leader was forced to isolate himself at home when a member of his family showed possible symptoms of coronavirus.
The United Kingdom left the European Union on January 31, after negotiating and signing the withdrawal agreement with the bloc.
The two sides are now in the final weeks of negotiations on the post-Brexit trade deal before the transition period ends on Dec.31 – with informal talks taking place in Brussels this week.
A key part of the withdrawal agreement – now an international treaty – was the Northern Ireland Protocol, designed to prevent the return of difficult borders to the island of Ireland.
The Home Market Bill proposed by the government would repeal this part of that agreement when it comes to goods and allow the UK to amend or re-interpret “state aid” rules regarding subsidies to companies in Northern Ireland, should both occur. The two sides do not agree on a future trade deal.
Last week, Northern Ireland Minister Brandon Lewis said the bill would “breach international law” “in a specific and limited way”, leading to widespread criticism from all sides of the political spectrum.
Here we go again … There is a deadline for Brexit on the horizon, and there is a lot of noise about it in Westminster, and the UK and the European Union cannot agree.
And yes, again, there is a pie of jargon in every other sentence.
Take a few steps back, and here’s what all this amounts to – how the UK will trade with its closest neighbors from January next year onwards and how the different parts of the UK will trade with each other.
This matters economically – and politically important as well.
The Brexit process has long exposed tensions between the UK and Brussels, but don’t underestimate the tensions it is causing in the UK either.
Those in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales who have long argued against not restricting London, they see, argue that Brexit is a final case study to clarify their argument.
So the precise task of Westminster is to get the United Kingdom out of one union, the European Union, while bringing together another, the United Kingdom.
All of these classes have this central goal at their core.
Cameron – who called the EU referendum when he was prime minister – said he had “concerns about what is being proposed”.
Speaking to reporters, he said: “Passing a parliamentary law and then proceeding to breach an international treaty obligation is the last thing you should think about. It should be an absolute last resort.”
Cameron said the “bigger picture” was about trying to get a trade deal with the European Union, and he urged the government to “preserve this context.” [and] This is the big prize in mind. “
These comments come on the heels of stronger criticism by the other four surviving prime ministers in the UK.
Ms. May, who is still a member of Parliament in the House of Commons, said violating international law would harm “confidence” in the UK, while Brown said it would be akin to “self-harm” for the country.
Sir John and Mr. Blair – who were in office during key periods of the Northern Ireland peace process – wrote a joint article in The Sunday Times accusing Johnson of “embarrassing” the UK and urging MPs to reject the “shameful” attempt to bypass parts of the withdrawal agreement.
Problem to be solved
Earlier, Police Minister Kate Malthouse described the bill as a “practical” step, saying it “solves the problem we face” about the future of trade with the European Union.
“What we have done is to say transparently that this is a situation that we think may happen – certainly this is what has been signaled by the European Union. It’s a problem that we have to solve, so here’s a bill that solves it,” he told the BBC.
“In the end, those who are against this law must tell us what the decision is.”
On Sunday, Attorney General Robert Buckland told the BBC that the law was an “insurance policy” if the UK and the European Union did not agree on a post-Brexit trade deal.
He said he hoped the powers the ministers sought would never be needed, and that he would resign if the UK ended up violating international law “in a way that I find unacceptable”.
But Labor leader Sir Keir Starmer accused the cabinet ministers of spreading “disinformation” over the weekend and “spinning” the reasons for pursuing the new bill.
He told LBC: “[Mr Johnson] Makes a mistake quoting a treaty – which would damage the UK’s reputation.
“I would like to tell the prime minister, look away, go back to the drawing board, drop these problems, don’t act in this reckless and wrong way and we’ll look again at the legislation.”
The bill disagreed about members of the Conservative Party.
Representative Sir Desmond Swain said he would support the bill, praising the government to prepare in case a trade deal is not agreed upon by the end of the year.
He told BBC News: “If the government does not take precautions against this possibility, it will be completely neglected. It is right to arm itself with the authorities only in case.”
But his colleague and justice commissioner, Sir Bob Neal, said the government and its supporters needed to “calm the language”.
He said there was already a mechanism in place to address the government’s concerns, but he was prepared to “face them midway” with an amendment of the bill – allowing only those elements that would violate international law to be used if Parliament agreed to this.
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