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Former Brexit Party MEP Ben Habib and Brexiteer Jonathan Saxty, say Brussels has “not negotiated in good faith” and the EU divorce deal signed in January does not take back control of the UK’s borders, laws, money or fisheries as promised the Tory election manifesto. In a scathing assessment, Mr Habib and Mr Saxty of the Brexit Watch think-tank, also claim the treaty has become a “liability for the UK” and “there is not a single thing in the 572-page withdrawal agreement which is to the UK’s advantage”.
In a joint comment piece, Mr Habib and Mr Saxty say Boris Johnson is in “denial” about the deal he signed eight months ago, and claim the agreement also bounds the UK to EU rules on state aid, employment, competition, environmental and tax laws, as well Jurisdiction from the European Court of Justice.
The Prime Minister put the wheels in motion to override parts of the Brexit deal on Monday afternoon, despite a huge backlash from former prime ministers, Brussels and his own MPs, amid fears the UK would break international law.
In the House of Commons, MPs voted in favour to a second reading of the Internal Market Bill.
The legislation could rewrite parts of the Brexit deal relating to the provisions around internal trade between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK once outside the EU’s single market and customs union.
The controversial piece of legislation has been welcomed by Mr Habib and Mr Saxty, but they argue it does not go far enough and the time has come for Mr Johnson to admit the whole withdrawal agreement (WA) is “wretched and to ditch it”.
Writing in The Telegraph, they said: “The biggest and most important contractual obligation the Prime Minister has is to the British people to deliver his manifesto pledges on Brexit.
“These are to take back control of our laws, our borders, our cash and our fishing. A failure to do so would be a betrayal of democracy itself.
“A plain reading of the WA reveals that it does not deliver these promises, it undermines them.
“The Internal Market Bill, if passed, would be a big step in the right direction but it does not go far enough.
“It is time for the Prime Minister to admit the entire WA is wretched and to ditch it.
“He has the moral high ground. All he now needs is the political will.”
The current protocol means Northern Ireland remains aligned with EU customs rules – therefore goods travelling from Northern Ireland into the rest of the UK would be subject to checks.
In the event of a no deal outcome, the Bill aims to give ministers the powers to reduce checks on goods flowing from Northern Ireland into the rest of the UK and narrow the scope of EU state aid rules.
In a bid to reassure disgruntled Tory MPs, Mr Johnson told the Commons the measures contained in the Bill were an “insurance policy” that he hoped would “never be invoked” if a trade deal was reached with the EU.
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At the dispatch box, the Prime Minister accused the EU of using Northern Ireland to “exert leverage” in the ongoing trade talks between the two sides.
He said: “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.”
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