The British Parliament on Monday night voted in favour of a controversial bill that allows the UK to reverse some of the Brexit agreements.
The law, known as the Internal Market Bill, is contrary to international law, Johnson admitted, but it is “a protection, it’s a safety net, it’s in an insurance policy and it is a very sensible measure,” he said.
The bill would allow ministers to take measures to ensure the free movement of goods to and from Northern Ireland.
Johnson has said that it is not his wish that the law be invoked, saying it would not have to be if a good free trade agreement with the EU could be concluded quickly.
“I regret to have to tell the House that in recent months the EU has suggested that it is ready to go to extreme and unreasonable lengths using the Northern Ireland Protocol in a way that goes well beyond common sense, simply to exert leverage against the UK in our negotiations for a free trade agreement,” Johnson said.
“I understand how some people will feel unease over the use of these powers,” he said, “and I share that sentiment myself and I have absolutely no desire to use these measures. They are an insurance policy and if we reach agreement with our European friends – which I still believe is possible – they will never be invoked.”
Last week, the EU and the UK finished an eighth round of negotiations on future relations. Negotiations remain difficult and do not seem to yield any progress, chief negotiator for the EU Michel Barnier had said after this eighth round.
While the country has left the European Union at the end of January, it remains part of the customs union and the single market until the end of the year.
After that, failing an agreement, EU-UK relations will be subject to World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules, with high tariffs and extensive customs controls.
The Internal Market Bill has faced criticism from the EU, with European Council President Charles Michel calling the bill “not acceptable.”
While the British parliament voted in favour, the bill’s content will have to be discussed over the next four days, with room for significant change in the process.