Veteran Tory MP John Redwood defended the Bill as a “necessary piece of legislation” despite Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis admitting it would breach international law, in a stunning moment in the House of Commons. Mr Redwood rejected claims the Bill would damage the UK’s standing on the international stage, insisting the proposed new legal framework which risks overriding parts of the Withdrawal Agreement (WA) would strengthen the country’s credibility.
His claims come as businesses across the UK are navigating a road to recovery following months of closure due to the coronavirus pandemic while also having to grapple with uncertainty caused by Brexit.
In an interview with German radio Deutschland Funk, Mr Redwood explained why he voted for the Bill which would give ministers further powers with relation to the Northern Ireland protocol.
Mr Redwood said: “I support it because it is a necessary piece of legislation to ensure that we can have our own internal market and customs union when powers are returned to us on January 1 of next year.”
He continued: "International law is not the same as criminal law. One can interpret it.
Brexiteer MP John Redwood has fiercely defended the PM'S controversial Brexit Bill
The Prime Minister's controversial Internal Market Bill has been backed by Brexiteer John Redwood
“I don't think we would violate international law at all. We are talking about an agreement between the United Kingdom and the European Union that is ambiguous and contradictory.”
He said passing the Bill would be an act of “common sense” and bring “security to the business world”.
When Mr Lewis’ assessment of the Bill – that it would break international law “in a very specific and limited way” – was put to Mr Redwood, he simply said: “He’s not right.”
The European Union have also been quick to criticise the UK for its plans which risk breaching international law.
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Mr Redwood said Mr Lewis was not right when he said the Bill would break international law
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said: "Very concerned about announcements from the British government on its intentions to breach the Withdrawal Agreement.
"This would break international law and undermines trust. Pacta sunt servanda = the foundation of prosperous future relations.”
Mr Redwood lashed out at all five living former prime ministers, including Theresa May and David Cameron, for condemning the legislation, saying they had used their positions to scupper the will of voters when it came to the country’s dealings with the EU.
He went on to dismiss the notion that Boris Johnson would somehow damage Britain’s credibility if he pushed ahead with the Bill, which Brussels has called on him to withdraw.
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The Conservative MP for Wokingham said the UK has made its desire for independence and control over its internal market and customs territory clear to the international community.
He claimed “our credibility will grow a lot” and accused the EU of resorting to “desperate tactics” in a bid to “interpret the unilateral agreement in a certain direction, which would damage the domestic market, the customs territory of the UK and its ability to have its own trade policy”.
And after the eighth round of trade talks between David Frost and Michel Barnier wrapped up with no deal in sight, Mr Redwood laid the blame on the EU’s shoulders, saying they had failed to “negotiate in a sensible way”.
He added: “The United Kingdom presented the European Union with a serious free trade agreement based on free trade agreements that the EU has concluded with third countries.
“We were told that the EU would not do this with us. And that with bad intent.
“So, it comes as no surprise that we in the UK Parliament, along with our government, are now regulating things our way by law.”
But the long-time Brexit supporter said regardless of whether both sides strike a deal, he remains hopeful Britain will get off to a strong start in 2021 after the transition period expires on December 31.
Mr Redwood said the Internal Market Bill would offer security to businesses
There will not be a “chaotic Brexit” if Mr Barnier and Lord Frost fail in their effort to reach a trade pact, Mr Redwood said, adding: “From the UK perspective, no deal will get us much of what we want.”
Informal discussions between both sides continued in Brussels this week.
The ninth round of official negotiations will begin on September 28.
The Prime Minister has said any deal will have to be agreed by mid-October to allow enough time for it to be passed through Parliament before the end of the year.
Additional reporting by Monika Pallenberg.