Boris Johnson is legally entitled to dump key section of Withdrawal Agreement, claims MP
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David Jones, MP for Clwyd West and the deputy chairman of the eurosceptic European Research Group (ERG) was speaking after Mr Johnson’s spokesman said two forthcoming pieces of legislation would aim to “clarify specific elements of the Northern Ireland protocol in domestic law to remove any ambiguity”. The news has angered many in Brussels, with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen claiming the agreement signed last year was enshrined in international law.
However, Mr Jones, a former minister of state in the Department for Exiting the European Union (DExEU), said the UK was perfectly within its rights to act given what had happened since the deal was signed.
The Northern Ireland protocol is a complex arrangement aimed at preventing a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic.
Brexiteers have always been uneasy because it offers the bloc oversight of some rules relating to Northern Ireland, with the prospect of the European Court of Justice acting as an adjudicator.
Mr Jones explained: “I think the hope was among everybody who voted for it at that time was that the EU and the UK would be able to displace those arrangements in the course of the negotiations on the future relationship.
“The problem that we have had is that the EU have not behaved reasonably in those negotiations.
“Article 184 of the withdrawal agreement provides that both parties will negotiate using best endeavours in good faith to conclude a free trade agreement.
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The EU is insisting on two red lines, that is fisheries and the state aid/level playing field before they will talk about anything else
David Jones MP
“In fact the political declaration also provides that the negotiations will respect British sovereignty and the integrity of the internal market.
“Now it is absolutely clear that the negotiations have not been carried out in that manner.
“The EU is insisting on two red lines, that is fisheries and the state aid/level playing field before they will talk about anything else.
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“That is not really using best endeavours and certainly not in my view negotiating in good faith.
“Furthermore it manifestly does not respect British sovereignty because it is seeking to impose EU regulations on the UK by effectively leaving the UK to be subject to EU regulations by virtue of the level playing field.
“And it also wants the UK state aid policy to be subject to EU direction.
“I think that has been a problem and now what the Government is recognising they are not negotiating as they had hoped using best endeavours, and it is putting in place the necessary domestic arrangements in the hope they can conclude something with the EU in the future meetings.”
The bloc’s failure to negotiate using best endeavours meant the UK was therefore justified in taking action to amend the arrangement in accordance with commitments set down in the Withdrawal Agreement itself, Mr Jones said.
He added: “I would say this probably is going to cause something of a flurry in the EU.
“But I think it is absolutely necessary to put these in the form of domestic law while of course international negotiations are continuing with the European Union.”
Asked whether the apparent move to alter aspects of the agreement relating to Northern Ireland meant the document was fundamentally flawed when it was initially signed last year, Mr Jones said: “Put it this way: Boris Johnson inherited a pretty weak hand from his predecessor.
“When he became Prime Minister, which was only in July of last year, we were fast approaching the deadline for conclusion of the negotiation.
“I think he did brilliantly well in getting the Irish backstop knocked out of the withdrawal agreement but I think it was always recognised that the reference to that could have been better.”
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