So pleased are Bernard Jenkin and his pals (not including Mark François) at the handiwork involved in compiling their Briefing Note that they have made it available to the perpetually thirsty Paul Staines and his rabble at the Guido Fawkes blog, where it has been published for all to gaze upon. So let’s see how they justify breaking international law.
Their conclusions? “This Bill does not break International or domestic law … The Bill (and further legislation) is vital to safeguard Northern Ireland from the EU’s attempts to use an absolutist interpretation to take Northern Ireland hostage in the negotiations … The EU itself is in breach of the Withdrawal Agreement. That being the case the UK has the right to withdraw (or plan for the eventuality/possibility) of withdrawal”. This is total bullshit.
The claim that the EU is in breach of the WA is a false assumption; the “take Northern Ireland hostage” stems from the spin given out by chief Downing Street polecat Dominic Cummings and his pals yesterday, which, as I pointed out earlier, was soon debunked by chief EU negotiator Michel Barnier. It is based on another false assumption.
What is worse, the ERG’s alternative reality has been conjured up rather too late: European Commission vice-president Maros Šefčovič has already followed up his meeting last week with Michael “Oiky” Gove with a letter detailing exactly how and where the bill breaks the law. This letter has also been more widely circulated.
This is the relevant paragraph: “If adopted as proposed, the Bill would clearly breach substantive provisions of the [Northern Ireland] Protocol (Article 5(3) and (4), together with Article 10 on custom[s] legislation and State aid), the primary and direct effect of the Withdrawal Agreement (Article 4) of which the Protocol is an integral part”.
And there was more. “In addition, the UK would be in violation of its good faith obligation under Article 5 of the Withdrawal Agreement as the Bill jeopardises the attainment of the objectives of the Agreement”. All of which means the Tories have a simple choice.
They can go with the ERG, and continue to claim erroneously that the rotten EU has forced them to vote for a bill that somehow gives them the right to trash international law and send the UK’s reputation directly from gutter to sewer. Or they can stop the relentless and tiresome playing the victim and face up to the reality of the situation.
Meanwhile, the media establishment needs to start calling out this puerile charade for what it is. Every detour into falsehood and misinformation has to be labelled thus, not as some kind of “one side says this” competition. Because that is where the ERG is right now.
It’s time for the Tories to rejoin the real world. And that includes the ERG.
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