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Today, the Prime Minister’s plan to defy international law with legislation which could breach part of the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement is set to face a vote in the House of Commons. The Internal Market Bill could override parts of the agreement with the European Union.
However, Mr Johnson is facing a revolt from his own ministers as well as former Prime Ministers including Theresa May, David Cameron and Tony Blair – who have all condemned the move.
Earlier today, Rehman Chishti, Mr Johnson’s Special Envoy for Freedom of Religion or Belief and MP for Gillingham and Rainham Flag, announced his resignation.
Writing on Twitter Mr Chishti said he “can’t support Internal Market Bill in its current form”.
Alongside the resignation letter he sent to Mr Johnson, he added: “I’ve written to the PM resigning as PM’s Special Envoy on FoRB.
“I can’t support Internal Market Bill in its current form, which unilaterally break UK’s legal commitments.
“As an MP for 10yrs & former Barrister, values of respecting rule of law & honouring one’s word are dear to me.”
Parliament is set to debate the Internal Market Bill, with MPs then voting to decide if the legislation should proceed to the House of Lords.
But, the BBC’s Political Editor Laura Kuenssberg has pointed out “abstentions” could be the decision Tory MPs decide to take on Monday evening.
Tweeting Mr Chishti’s letter of resignation, Ms Kuenssberg said: “Tory MP quits his special role over govt position on bill, just as govt sources make clear all ‘options on the table’ for MPs who don’t back it tonight when asked if any rebels might lose the whip.
“Given one of those who has deep objections to parts of the bill, is the former PM, taking the whip away would be quite the thing – but remember abstentions, or being otherwise engaged, is not the same as voting against, and that activity could find itself rather popular later.”
The Internal Market Bill has been met with objections by Brexiteers including Geoffrey Cox, former attorney general under Mr Johnson.
Mr Cox said he would not back the bill unless ministers dispel the impression they plan to “permanently and unilaterally” rewrite an international agreement.
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Writing in the Times, Mr Cox said: “What I can say from my perspective is we simply cannot approve or endorse a situation in which we go back on our word, given solemnly not only by the British Government and on behalf of the British Crown, but also by Parliament when we ratified this in February, unless there are extreme circumstances which arrive involving a breach of duty of the good faith by the EU.
“In those circumstances, there are then lawful remedies open to us and it is those we should take rather than violating international law and a solemn treaty.
“The breaking of the law leads ultimately to very long-term and permanent damage to this country’s reputation and it is also a question of honour to me – we signed up, we knew what we were signing, we simply can’t seek to nullify those ordinary consequences of doing that and I simply can’t support that.
“But, as I’ve said, there may be circumstances in which these powers could be lawfully used and it is those circumstances that the Government needs to define, I believe, to get the support of people like me.
“And, may I say, I find myself in a very sad position – I’m a strong supporter of this Government, I’m a strong supporter of Brexit, but for me the crossing of an important boundary is when the Government says it is going to break the law and a treaty it signed.”
David Cameron – who instigated the Brexit referendum in 2016 – joined the call to condemn Mr Johnson’s actions.
Mr Cameron said: “Passing an Act of Parliament and then going on to break an international treaty obligation is the very, very last thing you should contemplate.
“It should be an absolute final resort.
“So, I do have misgivings about what’s being proposed.
“But, I would just make this point.
“So far what’s happened is the Government has proposed a law that it might pass, or might not pass, or might use, or might not use depending on whether certain circumstances do, or do not appear.
“And, of course, the bigger picture here is that we are in a vital negotiation with the European Union to get a deal and I think we have to keep that context, that big prize in mind.”
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