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UK ministers are reportedly planning new legislation that could override a key part of the Brexit withdrawal agreement. Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis admitted the Prime Minister was making the bid, despite the fact that it would break international law. SNP MP Kirsten Oswald launched a furious attack against the Government for the move in the House of Commons.
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She told MPs: “The Prime Minister referred to Northern Ireland and said, ‘this is a good deal’ when he struck it last year. Now he seems to disagree with himself.
“No wonder it’s reported today that the head of the UK Government Legal Department has just quit because of the rowing back of the withdrawal agreement and Northern Ireland.
“Their internal market bill is taking a wrecking ball to devolution, they’re hell-bent on a poor deal or no deal Brexit, to hang with implications, but using the internal market bill to renege on part of the withdrawal agreement is extraordinary and dangerous.
“Can the minister explain what discussions he’s had with cabinet colleagues about the impact of these plans on Northern Irish business and the Good Friday Agreement?”
Mr Lewis shot back: “We have a distinct difference of opinion because whereas the SNP want to hand back powers straight to Brussels, we the UK Government are certifiably clear that we want to take those powers back for the residents and citizens of the United Kingdom.
“Indeed we will be devolving power to the devolved authorities, something that we have outlined in our discussions with the devolved authorities, including the First Minister of Scotland.
“This is about taking power from the EU, as people voted for, and giving it back to the people of the United Kingdom, including the Scottish Parliament.
“I’m just sorry that the SNP don’t share the desire to see democracy exercised here in the UK.”
Mr Lewis claims the legislation is about guaranteeing unfettered access for Northern Ireland.
Number 10 has said that it is still committed to implementing the withdrawal agreement.
Downing Street stressed its commitment to the Brexit divorce deal and the Northern Irish protocol that was designed to avoid the need for a hard border on the island on Ireland and agreed with the EU last year.
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EU Chief Negotiator Michel Barnier warned that respecting the Irish protocol is vital for peace and future partnership.
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The Government’s legislation could change the nature of Northern Ireland customs arrangements.
However, there are fears that this could lead to a hard Irish border and therefore jeopardise the Good Friday Agreement.
Under the withdrawal agreement’s Irish protocol, Northern Ireland effectively remains in the EU’s customs union in order to avoid customs checks.
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