Downing Street has sought to justify the Internal Markets Bill, which will override parts of Boris Johnson’s Withdrawal Agreement, saying the deal was written “at pace” in “the most challenging” circumstances.
“It was agreed at pace in the most challenging possible political circumstances to deliver on a clear political decision by the British people with the clear overriding purpose of protecting the special circumstances of Northern Ireland,” the Prime Minister’s official spokesman said.
“It contains ambiguities and in key areas there is a lack of clarity. It was written on the assumption that subsequent agreements to clarify these aspects could be reached between us and the EU on the details and that may yet be possible.”
Responding to the remarks, Ms Sturgeon said the Government’s “incompetence” was “trashing the UK’s international reputation”.
“In the General Election it was, according to the PM ‘oven ready’ – now, when they want to jettison it in breach of international law, it was ‘signed in a rush’,” the Scottish First Minister tweeted.
“What a bunch of incompetent and unscrupulous chancers – and they are trashing the UK’s international reputation.”
Earlier, Ms Sturgeon said the new legislation setting out trading arrangements within the UK after the Brexit transition period was a “full frontal assault on devolution”.
“The Internal Market Bill that the UK Government will publish today is a full frontal assault on devolution,” she said on Twitter.
“At forthcoming @ScotParl elections, @theSNP will make case for independence. And more and more this is not about independence v the status quo of devolution. It’s about independence as the only way to protect the Scottish Parliament from being undermined and its powers eroded.
“And added to all of the above, this is a Bill that, by the government’s own admission, breaks international law.
“This UK gov is the most reckless (& to make it worse, incompetently so) and unprincipled in my lifetime. Scotland can do better and we will have that choice.”
Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis confirmed to MPs on Tuesday that the legislation would breach international law in a “very specific and limited way”.
The bill, published on Wednesday, gives ministers the power to decide themselves – rather than in agreement with Europe – about checks on goods between Northern Ireland and the mainland as well as on state aid.
It also says that the provisions in the bill “must be introduced notwithstanding any relevant international or domestic law” – meaning that this legislation must be regarded first.
European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen said she was “very concerned about announcements from the British government on its intentions to breach the Withdrawal Agreement”.
She tweeted: “This would break international law and undermines trust. Pacta sunt servanda = the foundation of prosperous future relations.”
Influential Irish-American US Congressman Richard Neal has also urged the UK to “uphold the rule of law” and warned that any US-UK trade deal would be dependent on protecting the Good Friday Agreement.