That’s scuppered the claims that the row over Boris Johnson’s plan to break international law is a last gasp of the so-called ‘Remainers’, then.
Geoffrey Cox – a devout Brexiter – was Attorney General when Boris Johnson signed his EU withdrawal agreement in January.
His announcement that he will not support Johnson’s Internal Markets Bill is proof that the controversy extends much further than the established battle lines.
The story broke in The Times, which is behind a paywall. However, the East Fife Times has this:
Boris Johnson’s former attorney general, Geoffrey Cox, has said it would be “unconscionable” to override the Brexit divorce deal.
The Tory MP said there is “no doubt” the “unpalatable” implications of the Withdrawal Agreement were known when the Prime Minister signed it, a time when Mr Cox was the chief law officer.
So he should know!
“No British minister should solemnly undertake to observe treaty obligations with his fingers crossed behind his back”. @BorisJohnson’s previous attorney general @Geoffrey_Cox is merciless in his contempt for the PM’s attempt to renege on the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement.
— Robert Peston (@Peston) September 13, 2020
And he threatened worse:
The Brexiteer warned he would not back the UK Internal Market Bill unless ministers dispel the impression they plan to “permanently and unilaterally” rewrite an international agreement.
[He] said tariffs and customs procedures on certain goods entering Northern Ireland from Britain were part of the deal.
“There can be no doubt that these were the known, unpalatable but inescapable, implications of the agreement,” he wrote in The Times.
He said if the powers in the Bill were used to “nullify those perfectly plain and foreseeable consequences” then it would amount to the “unilateral abrogation of the treaty obligations”
Cox said ministers could use “clear and lawful” options under the withdrawal agreement to remedy their concerns that food imports may be blocked from Britain to Northern Ireland – or, “in extremis”, take “temporary and proportionate measures” via independent arbitration.
“What ministers should not do, however provoked or frustrated they may feel about an impasse in negotiations, is to take or use powers permanently and unilaterally to rewrite portions of an international agreement into which this country freely entered just a few months ago,” he said.
It seems he also said this:
Geoffrey Cox writes in The Times
“When the Queen’s minister gives his word, on her behalf, it should be axiomatic that he will keep it, even if the consequences are unpalatable.” https://t.co/eySxz4w6Me
— Sam Coates Sky (@SamCoatesSky) September 13, 2020
But the article also points out:
The QC… was attorney general during the unlawful suspension of Parliament.
That’s right; Boris Johnson prorogued Parliament illegally – and lied to the Queen in order to do it.
It seems Cox has had enough of such illegalities – and his words carry weight on the Conservative benches in the House of Commons.
They are also carrying weight on the social media:
Really significant as Geoffrey Cox is not only a former attorney-general but also a Brexiteer.
Him speaking out against the internal market bill could be a problem for No10 as it might catch the eye of some Tory backbenchers.
— Shehab Khan (@ShehabKhan) September 13, 2020
Reminder that Geoffrey Cox is an avowed Brexiter. Let’s nail the lie once and for all that this is the same old culture war, the same old ‘failure to accept the referendum’. This is not about Brexit and Remain. It’s about right and wrong. https://t.co/7S0ZxEg4Du
— Jonathan Lis (@jonlis1) September 13, 2020
this Telegraph snippet revealing Brexiteer former attorney-general Geoffrey Cox will rebel over internal market bill is latest proof that this row is *not* (contrary to some claims) a Remainer death spasm pic.twitter.com/xoVetZXQy1
— Jim Pickard (@PickardJE) September 13, 2020
Geoffrey Cox, a Brexiteer and Boris Johnson’s first Attorney General, coming out against the NI clauses in the withdrawal bill in such trenchant terms will add to the unease on the Tory benches https://t.co/uxnTsBM0Fd
— James Forsyth (@JGForsyth) September 13, 2020
Johnson and his people are desperately trying to play down the implications of their plan, but nobody is being fooled.
There may be more than verbal fireworks in the political news this week.
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