Former Prime Minister Theresa May issues scathing critique in parliament, saying proposal is illegal and will diminish UK’s world reputation
British lawmakers in the House of Commons voted Monday to give a second reading to the government’s controversial plan to unilaterally scrap parts of the Northern Ireland Protocol.
They voted 295 to 221, a majority of 74, giving initial approval to the bill. The vote allows it to move along the legislative process, with much of the most detailed scrutiny yet to come in the weeks ahead.
The proposed legislation has infuriated the European Union, which has threatened a trade war over what it sees as a breach of international law.
Even members of parliament within the ruling Conservative Party, however, opposed today’s move.
They include former Prime Minister Theresa May, who immediately preceded current Prime Minister Boris Johnson. She was toppled over opposition within the Conservative Party to her Brexit deal, especially her view on solving the Northern Ireland issue.
She refused to put a border in the Irish Sea between Great Britain and Northern Ireland, which Johnson did in his deal once he became prime minister. Johnson played a key role in toppling her government.
Speaking in parliament today, May issued a scathing critique and said she would not support the government’s plan to unilaterally change the Northern Ireland Protocol.
“The UK’s standing in the world, our ability to convene and encourage others in the defence of our shared values, depends on the respect others have for us as a country, a country that keeps its word and displays those shared values in its actions,” she said.
“As a patriot, I would not want to do anything that would diminish this country in the eyes of the world.
“I have to say to the government, this bill is not, in my view, legal in international law, it will not achieve its aims, and it will diminish the standing of the United Kingdom in the eyes of the world, and I cannot support it.”
Foreign Secretary Liz Truss defended the bill, saying the UK still wants a negotiated deal with the EU.
“We simply cannot allow this situation to drift. Northern Ireland has been without a devolved government since February due specifically to the protocol, at a time of major global economic challenges,” Truss said.
“Therefore, it is the duty of this government to act now to enable a plan for restored local government to begin. It’s both legal and necessary.”
Micheal Martin, the premier of the Republic of Ireland, said: “One cannot trivialise the breaching of an international agreement between the UK government and the EU. My concern is a trend towards unilateralism that is emanating from the UK government.”