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Daniel Hannan, a former Tory MEP, has lashed out at Brussels for refusing to engage with the UK, following the Prime Minister’s attempts to alter the Northern Ireland protocol in the Brexit deal signed in January. MPs will this week debate the Internal Market Bill, which aims to give Ministers the power to modify rules in relation to the movement of goods between Britain and Northern Ireland from January 1, if there is no trade deal.
The former MEP for South East England for more than a decade praised the Government for “openly and honestly” outlining its position on Northern Ireland in the event of no deal.
Mr Hannan also warned Brussels the Withdrawal Agreement should be null and void if there is no breakthrough in trade talks.
He said: “The Government has, by openly and honestly proposing these modifications in advance, signalled to the EU that it wants to continue talking in the hope of finding a sensible deal.
“If Brussels won’t engage, then, instead of arguably welshing on one part of the treaty, we should give notice and nullify the lot – withdrawing, so to speak, from the Withdrawal Agreement.
“We should say, in effect, ‘Thanks, but no trade deal, no deal. We’ll leave it to an international tribunal to sort out any outstanding debts, and I think we both know that the resulting sum will be smaller than what we were offering you.
“’As for Northern Ireland, it will remain an integral part of the United Kingdom, but we won’t raise any infrastructure at the border.
“What you do on your side is, of course, up to you. You can have checks in Ireland or between Ireland and the Continent. Or you can simply agree the comprehensive trade deal we were proposing all along, which will make checks unnecessary. Your call’.”
Mr Hannan also questioned the EU’s stance on Northern Ireland and claimed Brussels only became interested in the home nation after former Prime Minister Theresa May lost her majority in the Commons following the 2017 general election – a whole year after the referendum.
The leading Brexiteer insisted the calamity for Mrs May changed the mood in Brussels and then triggered the creation of the infamous Irish backstop – a mechanism aimed to tie Northern Ireland to the EU in order to prevent a hard border down the Irish Sea.
Mr Hannan explained the bloc was then galvanised and demands from the EU became “unthinkable”.
Writing in the Sunday Telegraph, Mr Hannan said: “As that realisation sank it – I was an MEP at the time and remember it well – the mood in Brussels shifted from resignation to a kind of delighted obduracy.
“All sorts of demands that had previously been unthinkable were now tabled in the hope, more or less openly avowed, that the British would (as Eurocrats saw it) come to their senses.”
Mr Hannan said a deal involving no trade barriers in Ireland should have been a “simple process”, but claims Brussels has used Northern Ireland as “leverage” in the negotiations.
The former MEP explained the Internal Market Bill to be debated in parliament this week is “narrowly and specifically designed to prevent such barriers”, and added it is “far from clear that it breaches the law”.
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This morning Justice Secretary Robert Buckland defended the Government’s decision to press ahead with the legislation in the House of Commons.
Speaking to BBCs Andrew Marr show, he said: “If I see the rule of law being broken in a way I find unacceptable then of course I will go.
“I don’t believe we’re going to get to that stage. I know in my mind what I have to do.
“But the Government collectively here also has a responsibility, we’ve got to resolve any conflict that’s what we will do.”
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