These kinds of threats to pass legislation that would violate the agreement are not only dangerous but also discreditable.
The government of the United Kingdom has proposed a piece of legislation that, once passed, will give the country the authority to violate the Northern Ireland Protocol.The withdrawal agreement, which outlined the circumstances under which the United Kingdom would be leaving the European Union, includes this protocol as an attachment. In particular, the protocol includes a number of special measures that address the question of how to prevent the creation of a “hard border” between Ireland and Northern Ireland. The Good Friday Agreement, which put an end to decades of war in the northern region of the island of Ireland, includes the provision that there will not be a border of this kind.
The withdrawal agreement will be violated if this legislation is allowed to pass. There is no debate about whether or not there will be a violation of the agreement. However, the government of the UK continues to insist that the breach is in some way acceptable. Ministers continue to argue that the legal notion of “necessity” gives the government the ability to violate its commitments to the European Union (EU). They go so far as to suggest that they have legal counsel that backs up this contention.
Outside of the government, very few, if any, legal professionals are of the opinion that the proposed violations may be legally justified on the grounds of “necessity” or any other legal foundation. In point of fact, there appears to be a great amount of uncertainty inside the administration regarding the legality of this stated attitude. The most senior external legal adviser to the administration may not be convinced in private, according to a leak of information.
The lack of support for the legal stance taken by the government has a very straightforward explanation. That is not the case. After a protracted period of deliberation and heated debate regarding the position of Northern Ireland after Brexit, the government ultimately decided to voluntarily join into this arrangement. It came about as a result of the long and contentious debate. In point of fact, Theresa May, the previous prime minister, was succeeded by Boris Johnson because she was unable to garner support for the alternative strategy that she proposed to take in order to solve this issue. This is not an issue that has come from the outside, unexpectedly, and been thrust upon the United Kingdom.
In addition to the fact that this did not come as a surprise to anyone, the United Kingdom and the European Union even came to an agreement with a specific procedure for dealing with challenges in the protocol, which is referred to as “Article 16.” In spite of numerous threats, the United Kingdom has resisted initiating this process, which would result in negotiations and possibly some form of protective measures. There is no rational explanation for why the government is now attempting to breach the protocol by claiming that it is “necessary” rather than going through the process outlined in Article 16.
The government of the United Kingdom has put itself in a difficult position. It negotiated and signed an agreement, even if it did not comprehend the terms of the agreement or did not intend for the agreement to take effect. The purpose of this action was to “get Brexit done.” The government now wants to amend that agreement; however, agreements can only be modified if all parties agree to the change, and the EU is not interested in changing.
By using the fear of legislation that would violate the agreement, the administration now intends to exert pressure on the EU into altering the protocol. This is not only foolish but also discrediting.
It is dangerous since the results of such an aggressive approach cannot be predicted, which is especially problematic given the precarious political situation in Northern Ireland. It is damaging to the United Kingdom’s reputation because it makes it more difficult for other countries to accept the United Kingdom’s word in international accords. It is difficult to conceive of a course of action that is more foolish than this one.
However, the government of the United Kingdom intends to continue with the strategy regardless of the criticism. It is making use of the freedoms it has gained as a result of Brexit in order to damage or even eradicate what little worldwide reputation it still possesses. There is a possibility that the government will back down, or there could be a compromise reached. However, the harm will already be done. To coin a phrase, it will not have been “necessary” in any way, shape, or form.