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  • Article: Sep 16, 2020
    By Mark Johnston

    Extract from Commission president's annual State of the Union speech, 16 September 2020, Brussels. Full version here.

  • Hero - EU flags
    Article: Sep 15, 2020
    By Mark Johnston

    Due to a combination of factors the Executive has decided to postponed our Annual General Meeting that was due to take place on Saturday 19 September online

    A new date and time, Saturday 24 October at 10am, has been set. Further details will be sent to LDEG members in due course.

    Mark Johnston
    Secretary, on behalf of the Executive Committee
    15 September 2020

  • Pen and paper (Photo by Chandler Cruttenden on Unsplash)
    Article: Sep 15, 2020
    By Mark Johnston

    Nick Hopkinson, our Vice Chair, has written to his MP about the outrageous Internal Market Bill. If you have not already written to your MP, you may wish to use some of Nick's wording and/or adapt it for a letter to your MP. For your ease of reference, your MP's contact details can be found here.

    Dear (name of MP),

    I write to request you oppose the Internal Market Bill which, if passed as it stands, would put the UK in breach of its obligations under international law with regard to the EU Withdrawal Agreement.

    The issue is far bigger than just our relations with the EU.

    Firstly, it undermines the legitimacy of the 2019 General Election and thus the Conservative party's right to be in government. The principal plank of the Conservative manifesto was to "Get Brexit Done" on the terms of the Withdrawal Agreement which Boris Johnson signed and Parliament ratified. Reneging on parts of the Withdrawal Agreement shows there is no "oven-ready deal" which was promised to the electorate.

    Secondly, Article 27 of the 1969 Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties (signed by the UK) states "A party may not invoke the provisions of its internal law as justification for its failure to perform a treaty." As Baroness Taylor, Chair of the House of Lords Constitution Committee, wrote to Lord Chancellor Robert Buckland on 11 September "Whether that breach is 'specific and limited' or not is irrelevant. Any breach of international law threatens to undermine confidence in future treaty commitments made by the UK Government and increases the likelihood that the governments of other countries will breach their international law obligations (to us)."

    Already US Congressional leaders have said they will not agree a trade deal with us unless we honour in particular the Northern Ireland Protocol of the Withdrawal Agreement. I mention a possible US trade deal not only because of its potential importance to our economy, but also because of the public support you have given a US deal.

    Thirdly, it is patent nonsense for the Government to suggest the Internal Market Bill preserves peace in Northern Ireland and the integrity of the United Kingdom when clearly the opposite would be true.

    It is unacceptable for Parliament to pass laws and for the Government expect we follow them, only for the Government to breach its own legislation. I urge you to stand up for the rule of rule and in particular the removal of the provisions in the Internal Market Bill which are inconsistent with international law.

    I also urge you to press for a prompt and mutually satisfactory conclusion to negotiations with the EU to avoid an even more damaging No Deal Brexit.

    Kind regards,
    Your name
    Your address

  • Article: Sep 14, 2020
    By Mark Johnston

    Leader's speech in 2nd reading debate of UK Internal Market Bill on 14 September 2020

    Full text ex Hansard:

    "I agree with the right hon. Member for Sutton Coldfield (Mr Mitchell): this Bill breaks the rule of law. It is against the national interests, and my party will oppose it. That might not surprise people. We have argued for Britain to work with our European partners at the heart of Europe, but in our opposition to the Bill, I am determined that we represent the views of leave voters as well as remain voters.

    "From the Prime Minister's promise that he had an oven-ready deal to his promise that he wanted a global Britain, this Bill breaks those promises made to leave voters. If the Government were to carry out their threat and breach the international treaty that the Prime Minister himself signed, it is clear that there would be no deal. The oven would not even be opened. If the Government deliberately and intentionally break international law, global Britain's ability to exercise influence in the world would be weaker than at any time since the first half of the 18th century.

    "As the arch Brexiteer and former Conservative party leader Michael Howard said, what message does this send to China, Russia or Iran? What credibility will Britain have in urging other countries to uphold international law if our great Parliament votes for this Bill? What about the future trade deals that Britain so desperately needs as we leave the world's largest single market while trying to recover from covid and this deep recession?

    "Our Prime Minister likes to portray himself as a modern-day Churchill, but Churchill said that the rule of law is part of the "title deeds of freedom". Churchill will turn in his grave if this Bill passes tonight. Let us remember what we teach our children in every school across this country. We teach them about British values of democracy, individual liberty and the rule of law. This Bill is against the very values that we teach our children about the importance of obeying the law.

    "For a Government to send this law-breaking signal would be appalling at any time, but we are in the middle of a pandemic, and if we are to beat this dreadful virus, people need to obey the law, even when the emergency covid laws were among the most draconian that the British people have faced for centuries. The rule of law has never been more precious to the health of our nation, and yet the Prime Minister has chosen this moment to trash the rule of law. This House must stop him tonight."

  • European flags
    Article: Sep 14, 2020
    By Mark Johnston

    As debate rages over Boris Johnson's Internal Market Bill, some Tory MPs and Brexiters are claiming that law has not been broken yet. This is untrue.

    As the text below shows, both the UK and EU are legally bound to act in good faith throughout the process.

    Moreover this provision in international law was made effective in UK domestic law by European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Act 2018 and in particular Section 7A.

  • Sun Times Brexit Ireland 26 Feb 2020
    Article: Sep 12, 2020
    By Mark Johnston

    The Sunday Times (below) described on 23 February how work was already underway in government to "get around" the international legal commitments that the UK had signed and ratified just a month earlier.

  • European Parliament Strasbourg
    Article: Sep 11, 2020
    By Mark Johnston

    Statement of the UK Coordination Group and the leaders of the political groups of the EP

    The UKCG and the EP political group leaders issued the following statement after meeting with Chief EU Negotiator Michel Barnier and Joint Committee Co-Chair Maroš Šefčovič, on Friday.

    The European Parliament's UK Coordination Group (UKCG) met today to assess the impact of the United Kingdom Internal Market Bill on the implementation of the Withdrawal Agreement with EU-UK Joint Committee Co-Chair Maroš Šefčovič and to evaluate the ongoing negotiations on the future EU-UK relationship with EU Chief Negotiator Michel Barnier.