Boris Johnson must be reined in over illegal actions – Scotsman comment

Conservative MPs must not allow Boris Johnson’s Government to think it is able to break the law with impunity.

Wednesday, 30th September 2020, 12:30 pm
Updated Wednesday, 30th September 2020, 1:05 pm
Boris Johnson's Internal Market Bill contains measures that would unilaterally rewrite parts of the Withdrawal Agreement with the EU (Picture: Jessica Taylor/AFP via Getty Images)
Boris Johnson's Internal Market Bill contains measures that would unilaterally rewrite parts of the Withdrawal Agreement with the EU (Picture: Jessica Taylor/AFP via Getty Images)

In a speech to the Westminster Parliament just before the UK entered the First World War, Foreign Secretary Edward Grey told MPs that if Britain failed to honour its obligations to defend Belgium under a treaty signed some 75 years previously, it would “sacrifice our respect and good name and reputation before the world”.

As the veteran journalist Simon Heffer recently noted, this commitment to an age-old promise contrasts sharply with Boris Johnson’s threat to flout a treaty, the Withdrawal Agreement, he signed with the EU less than a year ago.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

“Although it is the treaty enabling us to withdraw from the European Union, even many Brexiteers are appalled when they consider the reputational consequences of simply breaking a solemn and binding treaty,” Heffer wrote.

Read More

Read More
Michael Gove dismisses Brexit trade Bill concerns as ‘myth and fantasy’

The Government’s admission that its Internal Market Bill would break international law by unilaterally rewriting part of the Withdrawal Agreement has caused something of a rebellion among Conservative MPs. That the party which rightly prides itself on its commitment to the rule of law should take such a step is shocking and, when taken with the attempt to illegally prorogue parliament last year to prevent MPs properly scrutinising Johnson’s supposedly “oven-ready deal”, it suggests a concerning pattern is developing.

The power of a British Prime Minister with a large majority – like Johnson – has often been compared to that of a medieval monarch. Ambitious politicians in the governing party know they need to toe the line if they hope to advance up the ministerial ladder towards one of the great offices of state, rather than being reshuffled back to relative obscurity, and this can significantly reduce the chance of the Government being defeated in the Commons.

However, Conservative MPs who are concerned about Johnson’s current direction of travel – which should be all of them – need to make the Prime Minister fear this could happen to him if he is to be persuaded to get back on the straight and narrow. Power is an intangible thing that can begin slip away after a defeat, as Theresa May discovered, and he would be wise to take such a prospect seriously.

If Johnson is allowed to continue to act as if the rule of law does not matter, with little effective opposition, Britain may regret the absence of the sense of honour and duty that, in a different age, was very much in our elected representatives’ minds.

A message from the Editor:

Thank you for reading this article on our website. While I have your attention, I also have an important request to make of you.

The dramatic events of 2020 are having a major impact on many of our advertisers - and consequently the revenue we receive. We are now more reliant than ever on you taking out a digital subscription to support our journalism.

Subscribe to and enjoy unlimited access to Scottish news and information online and on our app. Visit now to sign up.

Subscribe to the Edinburgh Evening News online and enjoy unlimited access to trusted, fact-checked news and sport from Edinburgh and the Lothians. Visit now to sign up.

By supporting us, we are able to support you in providing trusted, fact-checked content for this website.

Joy Yates

Editorial Director


Want to join the conversation? Please or to comment on this article.