As controversy and rancor surrounding the government’s Internal Market Bill (IMB) continues to intensify, a leading Tory MP has defended the proposed legislation on the dubious grounds that international law is violated on a “routine” basis.
Former environment secretary, Theresa Villiers, has said it is “not unusual” for countries to disregard rules and norms in so far as laws are merely a “set of political constructs”.
Villiers’ extraordinary comments were made on the eve of the first debate in the House of Commons over the intensely controversial IMB.
The bill has come under fierce attack from nearly all quarters, including the European Union (EU), the Irish government and leading figures in the British establishment, notably five former British Prime Ministers.
The government has already conceded that the bill – which over-rides key parts of the 2019 Brexit treaty relating to Northern Ireland – violates international law in a “specific and limited way”.
The IMB has also prompted one resignation from the government, namely the PM’s special envoy for Freedom of Religion or Belief, and the MP for Gillingham and Rainham, Rehman Chishti.
In addition, there has been a high-profile resignation from the Civil Service, notably that of Sir Jonathan Jones, formerly the permanent secretary to the Government Legal Department.
Talking to Sky News, Villiers claimed that: “The reality is that there are routine occasions where countries or indeed the EU are in violation of obligations under international law”.
“The reality is international law is a set of political constructs which actually countries abide by or depart from in a number of circumstances - including the European Union itself”, the former cabinet minister added.
Not surprisingly, Villiers’ comments have elicited a strong reaction from across the political spectrum.
Liberal Democrat Justice Spokesperson, Wera Hobhouse, retorted: “It seems that under Boris Johnson, accepting the rule of law has become optional”.
“For the sake of the future of our country, Ministers must stop playing fast and loose with the rule of law. Far from protecting the national interest, Boris Johnson's Government seems content to see the UK's international reputation trashed", Hobhouse added.
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