Boris Johnson is ‘undoing Brexit’ by breaking international law, warns Ed Miliband

James Morris
·Senior news reporter, Yahoo News UK
·3 min read

Watch: Ed Miliband slams Boris Johnson over the Northern Ireland Protocol in the House of Commons

Labour has claimed Boris Johnson is “undoing Brexit” as the backlash against his “illegal” plans to override the EU divorce deal intensified.

Shadow business secretary Ed Miliband said the prime minister has “severely damaged” the UK’s reputation as an upholder of the rule of law with his “legislative hooliganism”.

It came as the government sought to progress its controversial Internal Market Bill in the House of Commons on Monday.

The bill has been presented as a “safety net” to potentially override the Brexit deal struck with the EU in October last year, if a “future relationship” trade agreement isn’t in place by the end of the transition period on 31 December.

Boris Johnson was accused by Ed Miliband of 'undoing Brexit'. (
Boris Johnson was accused by Ed Miliband of 'undoing Brexit'. (

However, the government last week admitted the proposed legislation would break international law, prompting anger on the Conservative backbenches. A number of MPs have rebelled, including former chancellor Sajid Javid, who said on Monday he will not back the bill.

After Johnson took to the Commons despatch box to face down his critics, Miliband rounded on his famous “get Brexit done” phrase, which the PM uttered hundreds of times during last year’s general election campaign.

“From a man who said he wanted to get Brexit done and won an election on it, this bill gets Brexit undone by overturning key aspects of the protocol that were agreed.”

A frowning Johnson shook his head at the suggestion and appeared to mutter the word “rubbish”.

Miliband continued: “I never thought respecting international law would in my lifetime be a matter of disagreement.”

Miliband, who led Labour between 2010 and 2015, added: “If there is one thing we are known for around the world, it is the rule of law. The country of the Magna Carta, the country that is known for having the mother of all parliaments, the country that out of the darkness of the Second World War helped found the United Nations./

Watch: What does a no-deal Brexit actually mean and what are its potential consequences?

“Our global reputation for rule making, not rule breaking, is one of the reasons we are so respected around the world.”

Johnson defended his controversial plan by suggesting the EU was being unreasonable and failing to negotiate in good faith.

Talks between the two sides for a “future relationship” deal have long been deadlocked and Johnson accused the EU of going to “extreme and unreasonable lengths” over the Northern Ireland Protocol.

Championed by the PM last year, it was designed to prevent a hard border on the island of Ireland by keeping Northern Ireland closely aligned with EU customs rules.

Johnson told MPs: “In recent months the EU has suggested that it is willing to go to extreme and unreasonable lengths, using the Northern Ireland Protocol in a way that goes well beyond common sense simply to exert leverage against the UK in our negotiations for a free trade agreement.”

Britain's Prime Minister and leader of the Conservative Party, Boris Johnson wears boxing gloves emblazoned with "Get Brexit Done" as he poses for a photograph at Jimmy Egan's Boxing Academy in Manchester north-west England on November 19, 2019, during a general election campaign trip. - Britain will go to the polls on December 12, 2019 to vote in a pre-Christmas general election. (Photo by Frank Augstein / POOL / AFP) (Photo by FRANK AUGSTEIN/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
Boris Johnson wearing 'get Brexit done' boxing gloves during last year's general election campaign. (Frank Augstein/pool/AFP via Getty Images)

He warned the EU could seek to act in other “absurd ways”, slapping tariffs on trade between Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

Mr Johnson said that “if they fail to negotiate in good faith” the UK must introduce a “package of protective powers”.

In an effort to reassure Tory MPs, the PM said the measures contained in the bill to set aside parts of the Brexit deal were an “insurance policy” that he hoped would “never be invoked” if an agreement was reached with Brussels.

The bill was being debated at its second reading, the second of 11 parliamentary stages before it can gain royal assent and become law.

A vote for the second reading was set to take place later on Monday night.