• Friday, Oct 23, 2020
  • Last Update : 01:52 pm

Angry EU rounds on Johnson's claim of Brexit blockade

  • Published at 07:44 pm September 13th, 2020
File photo: People wave British Union Jack flags as they celebrate in Parliament Square on Brexit day in London, Britain January 31, 2020 Reuters

Johnson's contention that the European Union is plotting to choke off food supplies with destabilising new trade barriers between Britain and Northern Ireland is 'simply not the case'

Ireland on Sunday rejected an incendiary claim by Prime Minister Boris Johnson that the EU is plotting to destabilise the UK, as another week of Brexit high drama beckoned ahead of a stormy parliamentary debate in London.

A war of words escalated about a new British government bill that London admits is in violation of its EU divorce treaty -- legislation that has sparked a furious response from former prime ministers Tony Blair and John Major, as well as sitting MPs.

Johnson's contention that the European Union is plotting to choke off food supplies with destabilising new trade barriers between Britain and Northern Ireland is "simply not the case", Irish Justice Minister Helen McEntee told Sky News. 

"Any suggestion that this is going to create a new border is simply not true," she said, while Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney dismissed Johnson's claim as "spin."

McEntee said that a protocol on Northern Ireland in the EU withdrawal treaty was agreed by both sides to ensure fair competition after Brexit, and to comply with a 1998 peace pact that ended three decades of unrest in the province.

The treaty also "ensures the integrity of Northern Ireland as part of the UK", she said, and it "ensures we do not see any kind of a border re-emerging."

Writing in Saturday's Daily Telegraph newspaper, Johnson had accused the EU of threatening to tear the UK apart by imposing a food "blockade" between Britain and Northern Ireland, which is meant to enjoy a special status with the EU after Brexit.

Johnson said the EU's stance justified his government's introduction of the new legislation to regulate the UK's internal market, after a post-Brexit transition period expires at the end of this year.

Resignation talk

But writing in Le Parisien newspaper, French European affairs minister Clement Beaune said it was "inconceivable" that a "great democracy" like the UK would break its word.

Charles Michel, who heads the EU Council of governments, said Britain's "international credibility" was at stake as both sides battle to unwind nearly 50 years of economic integration.

He insisted Johnson's government live up to its binding promises.

The bill will come up for its first debate in the House of Commons on Monday, and mutinous MPs are demanding its withdrawal along with pressing for Justice Secretary Robert Buckland to resign.

"If I see the rule of law being broken in a way I find unacceptable then of course I will go," Buckland told BBC television.

Adding fuel to the fire, the on Sunday Telegraph reported that British ministers were considering opt-outs from major portions of European human rights law after Brexit, in part to give them greater freedom of action against illegal migrants.

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