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UK risks damaging international reputation with new bill -- experts

(Xinhua)    08:56, September 15, 2020

LONDON, Sept. 14 (Xinhua) -- Britain's House of Commons (lower house of British Parliament) on Monday formally began debating the government's Internal Market Bill, which overrides parts of the Withdrawal Agreement that Prime Minister Boris Johnson signed with the European Union (EU) early this year.

Experts believe that Britain's proposal of the legislation risks the country's international reputation and reaching a deal with the EU would be the best solution.

CONTROVERSIAL BILL

Johnson's Internal Market Bill addresses part of the Withdrawal Agreement -- the Northern Ireland Protocol, which looks to prevent a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

If the bill is passed and becomes law, it would give British ministers the power to modify or "disapply" rules relating to the movement of goods between Great Britain and Northern Ireland, if Britain and the EU are unable to strike a trade deal.

MPs, along with some former British prime ministers, have warned Johnson the proposing legislation could damage Britain's international reputation.

"Passing an act of parliament and then going on to break an international treaty obligation is the very, very last thing you should contemplate," said former Prime Minister David Cameron.

Meanwhile, Johnson is urging Conservative MPs to back his plan and get the bill through.

Writing an article on Saturday in the London-based Telegraph newspaper, Johnson said the bill "gives freedoms and certainties" for British businesses and citizens that were previously set out in EU law, adding that "it is crucial for peace, and for the Union itself".

RISKING REPUTATION

Experts have warned that the British government's move risks the country's reputation on the international platform.

"I think it has raised question marks in everybody's minds, how committed is the UK to the rule of law now? It's going to be really important how the UK handles this now, whether it can find a way forward," David Phinnemore, professor of European Politics at Queen's University Belfast, told Xinhua.

His opinion was shared by Rajneesh Narula, the John H. Dunning Chair of International Business Regulation at the Henley Business School, University of Reading.

Narula believes if Britain follows through with the changes to the Withdrawal Agreement then it risks their weight in international discussion.

"The fact that they are threatening to do is something that no significant nation on the world platform normally does," said the economist," adding that in the long run "it makes your friends think that you aren't really reliable."

Phinnemore believes that the idea of a Global Britain promoted by Johnson -- which seeks to see the country arrange deals and relationships with countries around the world -- has also been undermined.

"If the UK is willing to renege on a set of commitments...with the largest partner (EU), then I think a lot of countries will be asking, to what extent can we really trust the UK to deliver on any obligations we enter into with them?" he said.

UNDERMINING TRUST

The EU is demanding that Britian ditches its plans to pass the bill, saying that failure to do so could risk jeopardizing trade talks.

Time is running out for both sides to formally agree on a deal as there is less than five weeks to agree a deal in line with Johnson's Oct.15 deadline.

Phinnemore warned that trust levels have already been "undermined" by Britain's decision to put the bill to the Commons, and the proposal of the new bill has flagged up a number of problems within the EU-UK relationship.

British Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove on Friday defended the new bill, saying Britain had made clear during discussions with EU officials on the UK Internal Market Bill that legislative timetable for the bill would continue as planned.

Gove also reiterated the government's commitment to implementing the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement, including the protocol covering Northern Ireland.

SEEKING SOLUTION

Phinnemore believes that the main concern from both parties will be how best to resolve it.

There is a possibility that if the EU decides to take action under the dispute settlement mechanisms within the Withdrawal Agreement and the Northern Ireland Protocol, then the situation could end up in the European Court of Justice.

"The EU has obviously got to see what is going to happen with the Internal Market Bill," said Phinnemore, noting that it's very difficult to predict what will happen to any piece of legislation going through British parliament given the history of the Brexit process.

Narula believes that Britain should still set their sights on passing an agreement with the EU.

"I think preparing for hard Brexit is in no one's interest, but least for the United Kingdom," he said.

(For the latest China news, Please follow People's Daily on Twitter and Facebook)(Web editor: Wen Ying, Liang Jun)

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