The Prime Minister’s former attorney general, Geoffrey Cox, said it would be “unconscionable” to override the deal, adding there is “no doubt” the “unpalatable” implications of the withdrawal agreement were known to Mr Johnson signed it. The Brexiteer warned he would not back the Internal Market Bill unless ministers dispel the impression they plan to “permanently and unilaterally” rewrite an international agreement, with tariffs and customs procedures on certain goods entering Northern Ireland from Britain were part of the deal. Mr Cox added if the powers in the Bill were used to “nullify those perfectly plain and foreseeable consequences” then it would amount to the “unilateral abrogation of the treaty obligations”.
The former attorney general wrote in The Times: “When the Queen’s minister gives his word, on her behalf, it should be axiomatic that he will keep it, even if the consequences are unpalatable.
“What ministers should not do, however provoked or frustrated they may feel about an impasse in negotiations, is to take or use powers permanently and unilaterally to rewrite portions of an international agreement into which this country freely entered just a few months ago.”
The rebellion from Mr Johnson’s own ministers comes as legal expert Gina Miller accused the Prime Minister of asking the Queen to “put her name to an Act that would break international law”, something that would “mar her legacy as someone whose life has been dedicated to the rules-based order”.
She wrote: “Many elements of the Internal Markets Bill are necessary as we reverse 40+ years of membership of the European Union, and the Prime Minister is respecting Parliamentary sovereignty by placing the Bill before Parliament.
“However, the position he is potentially placing the Queen in is as distasteful as it is disrespectful.
“The third stage of any legislation is the Crown must agree to the legislation through the prerogative of Royal Assent. This is normally a formality as the sovereign body of the United Kingdom is not Parliament, but the Crown-in-Parliament.
“The last time Royal Assent was refused was in 1708, under Queen Anne, when she rejected the Scottish Militia Bill on the advice of ministers. In 1914, George V very nearly withheld the assent to the Irish Home Rule Bill but was persuaded not to, again on ministerial advice.
“The tables are now turned as it would be her own Prime Minister who would be necessarily advising her to break international law. The Government could be placing the Queen in the middle of a major constitutional crisis by demanding her approval for her government to break international law.”
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