The U.K. Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis refused to commit the British government to abiding by a legal arbitration mechanism set out in the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement if it did not agree with its findings.
“We’re getting into hypotheticals,” Lewis told MPs as he faced questions from the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee on Wednesday over whether ministers would abide by any future arbitration, calling the discussion “not helpful” and “dangerous.” Lewis insisted that the government’s plan is not to get into the arbitration process in the first place.
Committee chair, Conservative Simon Hoare questioned whether countries brokering trade deals with Britain could then expect it to honor arbitration agreements in those deals.
“I think they would be confident in our position,” Lewis replied.
The session follows the launch of the committee’s Brexit and the Northern Ireland Protocol Inquiry last week after Lewis’s admission that the bill will give ministers the power to go back on parts of the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement, so breaching international law. As part of the protocol, a U.K.-EU joint committee is tasked with negotiating how the border between Northern Ireland and Great Britain will work. The bill seeks to unilaterally change that process.
Lewis told MPs on Wednesday that he did not misspeak or answer the wrong question when he told the U.K. parliament last week that the Internal Market Bill would break international law around the protocol. “The answer I gave was a very clear answer to a very specific question,” he said.