| 4.8°C Belfast

Brexit: DUP's Gavin Robinson refuses to be drawn on Government intention to break law with Internal Market Bill

MP says he will wait to see detail put to Commons

Close

Gavin Robinson

Gavin Robinson

Gavin Robinson

DUP MP Gavin Robinson has refused to be drawn on whether he feels it acceptable for the UK Government to break international law through new Brexit legislation.

On Tuesday, Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis sparked fierce criticism when he admitted in the Commons that the Internal Market Bill will break international law in a "very specific and limited way".

The bill, to be tabled in the commons on Wednesday afternoon, will set out powers currently held by the EU and how they will be shared out following the end of the Brexit transition period.

This has raised concerns, however, that it could allow ministers to change parts of the Withdrawal Agreement's Northern Ireland Protocol, which was agreed last year and designed to prevent a hard border on the island of Ireland.

It would do this by essentially keeping Northern Ireland in the EU's single market for goods, meaning some goods moving from the rest of the UK to Northern Ireland would be subject to checks.

Speaking to the BBC, Gavin Robinson said there had been the "greatest hits" of "negativity and pessimism" from many quarters in recent days over the issue, without anyone seeing the text of the Internal Market Bill.

"What's the reality? Where are we? We are three months away from the end of the transition period and there are parts of the Withdrawal Agreement that the European Union gave a commitment to ensure that the joint committee would agree what was at risk, for example goods travelling from GB into Northern Ireland and on to the rest of the EU. They haven't made those simple agreements," he said.

"We are sitting in a situation today in the United Kingdom where one to three percent of international goods that arrive here are checked.

"Yet, until the EU step up to the plate in the joint committee and agree that domestic goods that we buy in Sainsburys or Asda and Tesco and all the rest that come from GB into Northern Ireland are not at risk, we are going to be in a situation where every tin of beans will be checked."

Writing in the Belfast Telegraph on Wednesday Brandon Lewis and Alok Sharma, Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, said the legislation would be a "safety net" that is necessary to "guarantee unfettered access for Northern Ireland's businesses to the rest of the UK market".

Mr Robinson said he would reserve judgement on the bill until he sees the detail of it, however, he understood the need for such a "safety net" as the EU was "frustrating" aspects of the Withdrawal Agreement that are necessary to protect Northern Ireland businesses and provide clarity going forward".

He added: "This is not a case of the UK blindly embarking into a situation where they want to break international law, you have a situation where the Withdrawal Agreement is being frustrated.

"That contract, that binding piece of legislation, is being frustrated because the EU simply hasn't agreed the basic fundamentals of it."

Belfast Telegraph