The British Government has published its controversial United Kingdom Internal Market Bill, which its Northern Secretary Brandon Lewis acknowledged yesterday (8 September) would breach international law in a "very specific and limited way".
The bill has sparked concerns in Dublin and Brussels, with Taoiseach Micheál Martin saying that any negotiation process could proceed only on the basis of trust.
“When one party to a negotiation decides that they can change what’s already agreed and incorporated into law, it really undermines trust,” he said.
As the bill was being published, Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson (pictured) said it would "ensure the integrity of the UK internal market" when the Brexit transition period ends at the end of this year.
The bill could override parts of the Withdrawal Agreement relating to Northern Ireland, which were aimed at avoiding a hard border on the island of Ireland.
Under the deal, Northern Ireland will remain in the UK's customs territory, but will apply EU customs rules and will be part of the EU's single market for goods. This means that goods moving from Britain to Northern Ireland would be subject to some customs checks and EU tariffs.
But Johnson told the House of Commons there was a need for “a legal safety net to protect our country against extreme or irrational interpretations of the Protocol, which could lead to a border down the Irish Sea”.
The head of the country’s Government Legal Department, Sir Jonathan Jones, has already resigned over the government’s plans to challenge parts of the EU withdrawal agreement.
The director of policy at the British Irish Chamber of Commerce, Paul Lynam, said the focus should remain on securing a comprehensive trade deal that was in both parties’ interests.
“The EU and the UK have agreed to an internationally binding deal through the Withdrawal Agreement, we expect both parties to honour their respective obligations,” he said.