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House of Lords peers have expressed their fury at Boris Johnson’s new legislation that seeks to override parts of the UK’s Brexit withdrawal agreement with the EU. Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis admitted the plan would break international law, but claimed it would only be “in a very specific and limited way”. Former Lord Chancellor, Labour peer Lord Falconer railed against the decision in the chamber as he addressed Lord Keen, the Advocate General for Scotland.
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Lord Falconer said: “Brandon Lewis’ acceptance that this Government is deliberately breaking international law will be thrown in the UK’s face for years.
“Expect dictators to justify murderous breaches of international law by relying on the Lewis mantra: specific and limited.
“The rule of law is not pick and mix with acceptable laws chosen by the Home Secretary or an adviser in Number 10.
“This stinking hypocrisy chokes our country’s reputation and destroys our Government’s ability to lead at home and make agreements abroad.”
He continued: “Law officers and the Lord Chancellor must stand behind their self-proclaimed duty or leave, otherwise they will be dismissed as long on self-importance and short on the backbone their great offices require.
“How is the admitted breach of international law consistent with the UK’s commitment to the rule of law?
“On what basis does he, as a law officer, remain part of the Government?”
Lord Keen hit back at the attack, citing precedent.
He told the chamber: “From time to time, tensions do occur between our domestic, legal obligations and our position with regard to international law.
“Of course here there is a very real tension between the direct effect of EU law and what would occur if we had no agreement at the end of the transition period.
“There is an article which determines that Northern Ireland is part of the UK’s customs area. This and many others have to be considered.”
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The peer added: “Against that contingency, ministers considered it appropriate to provide a means of addressing issues.
“At the end of the day, it will be for Parliament to determine whether or not it is appropriate.
“In these circumstances, I continue in the post and continue to advise and encourage, understanding that from time to time, very real tensions can emerge.”
The European Commission says that the bill the Government has proposed that would override parts of the withdrawal agreement has “seriously damaged trust” between the EU and UK.
The Commission has demanded that the Government withdraw measures from the bill that override the Brexit deal by the end of the month.
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