Boris Johnson’s former attorney general Geoffrey Cox has vowed to not support the government’s plan to breach its Brexit withdrawal treaty.
The Torridge and West Devon MP said he would not vote for the Internal Market Bill, when it comes before parliament in a series of votes this week, as it would ruin “the standing and reputation of Britain in the world” by breaking international law.
Cox wrote in the The Times today that the government had “a duty to interpret and execute both the agreement and the protocol in good faith”.
Cox’s intervention adds to the numbers of Tory MPs that are set to vote against, or abstain, in voting for Johnson’s bill this week.
Ten Conservative MPs have now confirmed they will not vote for the bill, while former Tory prime ministers Sir John Major and David Cameron have also hit out against it.
Cox said: “What ministers should not do, however provoked or frustrated they may feel, is to take or use powers permanently and unilaterally to rewrite portions of an agreement into which this country freely entered just a few months ago.
“Therefore, if the government does not urgently and effectively dispel the impression that it intends to do so, I shall have no choice but to withhold my support for this bill.”
The Internal Market Bill will be debated in parliament today, before a series of votes over the next week will determine if the UK overrides the Brexit deal Johnson agreed with the EU last year.
The bill seeks to ensure that the EU cannot block trade between Northern Ireland and Great Britain in the case that the UK leaves the EU customs union and single market without a deal on 31 December.
However, it is also a breach of the Brexit withdrawal agreement, as negotiated by Johnson, as it overrides clauses pertaining to Northern Ireland.
Justice secretary Robert Buckland told the BBC today that it was “an insurance policy” in case no trade deal is struck with the EU and that he did not expect that it would come into play.
Nevertheless, Brussels is demanding Johnson drops the legislation by the end of the month or else it will break off trade negotiations with the UK.
Opposition leader Sir Keir Starmer told LBC that he would not support the bill and that “the Labour Party that I lead will not go along with breaking international law”.