A SENIOR Tory has warned “gunboat diplomacy” won’t work with the EU as he became the first figure in the party in Scotland to attack Boris Johnson’s plan to breach international law by reneging on the Brexit withdrawal agreement.
Struan Stevenson, a former MEP, said he believed the move would entrench European positions and make it harder to reach a free trade agreement.
The former MEP also stated he didn’t believe the Prime Minister could – or would – follow through on his proposals as in addition to it being agreed with the EU, it had been backed by parliament.
“I doubt very much they will be allowed to withdraw from the agreement,” Stevenson told The National.
“It’s a case of law. You cannot simply walk away from something that has been agreed by parliament.”
He added: “They have been firmly told by legal experts that there is no way they can withdraw from an agreement that was bound in law.
“Frankly, I think it is a bit of muscle flexing to try to accelerate the talks that are going on today with Michel Barnier in London.
“But I can tell you from a European perspective that kind of gunboat diplomacy does not go down well. I think it is counterproductive.
“Michel Barnier will not react well. It will entrench his position – I don’t think it’s going to be helpful.”
Stevenson is the first to speak out against Johnson’s proposals – which were defended by the Scottish Tory leader earlier this week.
Douglas Ross, the Moray MP, who campaigned for Brexit, described the planned changes on Monday night as “small clarifications” despite European leaders and politicians in Ireland describing them as breaches of international law.
MSP Liam Kerr, the party justice spokesperson, yesterday refused to discuss the UK Government’s plans to break international law in a bid to override the Brexit deal.
H e was pressed on whether – given the UK Government admitted the legislation will break international law – he could support the bill. But Kerr, who was on the programme to discuss the Scottish Government’s Hate Crime Bill, could not provide an answer to the question.
He told the show: “Well look at everything on its merits brought before the Scottish Parliament on matters that are within the competence of the Scottish Parliament and I shall, as I do with everything and particularly in the debate today I shall listen to any debate and do what I think is right for the people of Scotland.”
Presenter Gary Robertson pressed the MSP. “But the Government breaching international law would concern you as justice spokesman surely?”
Kerr refused once more to address the matter. He said: “I think that anything coming forward before the Scottish Parliament in a Hate Crime Bill that I’ve called today and I’m really very keen to discuss because it’s an extremely important matter that we get right and that is what I’ll be voting on today.”
The Internal Market Bill adds new measures that re-interpret the withdrawal treaty – agreed with Brussels earlier this year.