Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis sparked fury yesterday when he confirmed that a Government plan to override elements of Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal with Brussels would breach international law.

The comment from Lewis provoked a furious reaction when he told MPs legislation to ensure Northern Ireland could continue to enjoy unfettered access to markets in the rest of the UK would breach international law in a “very specific and limited way”

The announcement followed the news that the head of the Government Legal Department had resigned amid reports he was “very unhappy” with the proposal.

While the latest Brexit fallout dominates front pages in Scotland and the UK, we take a look at how the news was received across the media in Europe.


France 24 referred to the latest news as ‘Brexit Poker’ focussing on the limited movement in talks and the ongoing market concerns around the prospect of no deal. They wrote: “As the pound fell sharply on fears of a no-deal exit, the head of the Government Legal Department quit in disagreement with a plan to overwrite parts of the Withdrawal Agreement treaty signed in January.

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“Britain left the European Union on Jan. 31 but talks on new trade terms have made little headway as the clock ticks down to an October deadline and then the end of the status-quo in late December.”

French paper Le Monde focussed their coverage on the issues that the breach could have in Ireland stating: “The matter is complex but extremely sensitive” and referenced the joint committee (made up of British and members of the EU) tasked to set the practical details of the divorce treaty to avoid the return of a “hard” border after Brexit between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

Another analysis piece in Le Monde asked the key questions involving Brexit to their London correspondent Cécile Ducourtieux who told readers: "It is unreasonable to think that the UK government is "doing everything possible" not to get a deal. Perhaps some in Boris Johnson's entourage think the "no deal" would be a "good result" for the country (as the Prime Minister said on Monday). Closing an agreement would allow these criticisms to be partly silenced. Above all, a "no deal" would give unstoppable arguments to the SNP, which is already at the top of the polls." 

German newspaper Sueddeutsche Zeitung angled their coverage on the anger felt by those in the EU stating in their report that the news “caused irritation and indignation. EU Parliament President David Sassoli warned Great Britain of "serious consequences" if London tried to undermine the withdrawal agreement. The Irish Prime Minister Micheál Martin also warned against a breach of contract - this would mean that all negotiations would be "null and void"."

They added: “Johnson is increasing the already high tension in the Brexit dispute. Only on Monday did he give the EU an ultimatum: He demanded an agreement on future relations by October 15, the day of the next regular EU summit. If this does not succeed, there will be no free trade agreement with him."

The Irish Times wrote: “The legislation will limit the scope of EU state aid rules to Northern Ireland.

“The protocol says that all goods moving from Great Britain to Northern Ireland should be considered to be at risk of proceeding into the EU single market “unless it is established that it will not be subject to commercial processing in Northern Ireland and fulfils the criteria established by the joint committee” tasked with implementing the agreement.”


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Der Spiegel ran with the EU threatening to break off negotiations following the latest move from the UK Government“Struggles and a possible violation of the exit agreement - the tone between the EU and the British in the negotiations on the future free trade agreement is getting rougher. What is for show, what is really threatening?”

The paper also claimed that those in the EU “have also noticed in the EU capital that Johnson's star is on the wane because of the poor management of the coronavirus crisis at home. Brussels bashing is always a tried and tested method”. 

CNN’s international edition wrote that the announcement from Brandon Lewis could have further ramifications. They wrote: “ Lewis' admission that the legislation will breach international law will set off alarm bells in Brussels. An EU diplomat told CNN on Monday that the "withdrawal agreement has been signed and ratified by the UK and the EU, it is in force ... If the UK chose not to respect it, then theoretically the EU would have to take legal measures."

Dennis Staunton of the Irish Times wrote in his analysis about the shock from the benches in the House of Commons following the announcement writing, but that those in the Conservative Party are unlikely to rebel against the Prime Minister. He wrote: “A small number of Conservative MPs have expressed disquiet about their government’s willingness to break an international treaty but most have been either silent or supportive. With the DUP’s eight MPs likely to support the legislation, it would take 56 rebel Conservative MPs to block it.

“Few at Westminster believe anywhere near that number will risk losing the party whip by voting against a Bill that their government has acknowledged to be in breach of international law. It is a measure of the transformation of the Conservative Party and how it has been captured by Johnson’s constitutional recklessness as surely as Republicans on Capitol Hill have been by Donald Trump’s.”