WORCESTER’S MP Robin Walker has branded controversial proposals which which could see the Government break international law and tear up parts of its own Brexit deal ‘an insurance policy’ should talks with the EU fail.
Mr Walker was among 328 Conservative MPs to back Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s controversial proposals by a majority of 77 votes on Monday (September 14) evening.
The bill is currently being fast-tracked through the House of Commons to be in place before October 15, the date which Mr Johnson has said a trade deal for Britain’s future with the European Union should be agreed.
The Internal Market Bill would give UK ministers powers to waive customs paperwork on trade between Northern Ireland (NI) and Great Britain, define which goods entering NI are liable for tariffs in event of no deal and ignore EU state aid rules.
If it undid sections of the Northern Ireland Protocol, the Government would break international law as the document is part of the legally-binding Withdrawal Agreement it only signed with the European Union in January and on which Conservative MPs such as Mr Walker and Mrs Baldwin stood for Parliament at December’s General Election.
Critics have lambasted the Prime Minister for wanting to alter a document he negotiated and presented as ‘oven-ready’ in December and for its potential to see the United Kingdom ignore international law.
However, Conservative rebels appear to have won concessions from the Prime Minister after Number 10 revealed on Wednesday (September 16) any use of the powers would be subject to a vote in Parliament.
But speaking to the Observer, Mr Walker sought to defend the Government and said: “This is something we hope can be resolved in our ongoing discussions with the EU but we need this as an insurance policy just in case negotiations don’t bear fruit.
The MP, who serves as a Northern Ireland minister in the Government, said the UK remained committed to ‘unfettered access’ to the Northern Ireland market and stressed the legislation wasn’t about unpicking parts of the Northern Ireland protocol and hoped it would not need to be used.
“We would not be breaking the law, it’s the will of parliament how international treaties are respected. We would be using the law-making power of our parliament to insist how the treaty should work,” he added.