INTERNATIONAL

No EU plot to destabilise the U.K.: Ireland

Souring relations:Boris Johnson holding a virtual press conference at Downing Street on September 9.APStefan Rousseau

Souring relations:Boris Johnson holding a virtual press conference at Downing Street on September 9.APStefan Rousseau  

Ireland on Sunday rejected an incendiary claim by Prime Minister Boris Johnson that the EU is plotting to destabilise the U.K., as another week of Brexit high drama beckoned ahead of a stormy parliamentary debate in London.

A war of words escalated about a new British government Bill that London admits is in violation of its EU divorce treaty.

Mr. Johnson’s contention that the European Union is plotting to choke off food supplies with destabilising new trade barriers between Britain and Northern Ireland is “simply not the case”, Irish Justice Minister Helen McEntee told Sky News.

“Any suggestion that this is going to create a new border is simply not true,” she said, while Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney dismissed Johnson’s claim as “spin”.

McEntee said that a protocol on Northern Ireland in the EU withdrawal treaty was agreed by both sides to ensure fair competition after Brexit, and to comply with a 1998 peace pact that ended three decades of unrest in the province.

The treaty also “ensures the integrity of Northern Ireland as part of the U.K.”, she said, and it “ensures we do not see any kind of a border re-emerging”.

Resignation talk

Writing in Saturday’s Daily Telegraph newspaper, Mr. Johnson had accused the EU of threatening to tear the U.K. apart by imposing a food “blockade” between Britain and Northern Ireland, which is meant to enjoy a special status with the EU after Brexit.

Johnson said the EU’s stance justified his government’s introduction of the new legislation to regulate the UK’s internal market, after a post-Brexit transition period expires at the end of this year.

But writing in Le Parisien newspaper, French European Affairs Minister Clement Beaune said it was “inconceivable” that a “great democracy” like the U.K. would break its word.

Charles Michel, who heads the EU Council of governments, said Britain’s “international credibility” was at stake as both sides battle to unwind nearly 50 years of economic integration.

He insisted Mr. Johnson’s government live up to its binding promises.

Parliament debate

The Bill will come up for its first debate in the House of Commons on Monday, and mutinous MPs are demanding its withdrawal along with pressing for Justice Secretary Robert Buckland to resign. “If I see the rule of law being broken in a way I find unacceptable then of course I will go,” Mr. Buckland told BBC television.

“I don’t believe we’re going to get to that stage,” he added.

The main opposition Labour party demanded thePM get his priorities right, four years after he led the hugely divisive campaign to quit the EU in a hard-fought referendum. “Get on with Brexit and defeat the virus. That should be the government’s mantra,” Labour leader Keir Starmer wrote in the Sunday Telegraph .

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