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Changes to the Brexit bill will break the law, says minister

Admission: Mr Lewis addresses MPs

CHANGES mooted to the UK’s Brexit deal with the EU would ‘break international law’, a minister has admitted.

Northern Ireland secretary Brandon Lewis told MPs No.10’s plan to renege on parts of the withdrawal agreement would go against the treaty in a ‘very specific and limited way’.

The government’s Internal Market Bill — being introduced today — could affect post-Brexit customs and trade rules in Northern Ireland, but Mr Lewis claims proposals in the legislation are not that unusual.

Trust issues: Ex-PM Theresa May warned proposals in bill could harm other nations’ ‘trust’ in UK as it seeks to secure future trade deals

He said they will create a ‘safety net’ if UK-EU trade talks fail, adding there was a ‘clear precedence for the UK and other countries to consider their international obligations as circumstances change’.

But former prime minister Theresa May warned any changes could damage ‘trust’ in the UK when it seeks to tie up future trade deals with other nations.

Tory MP Sir Bob Neill tweeted: ‘Any potential breach of the international legal obligations we have entered into is unacceptable,’ while’s Mr Lewis’s shadow cabinet counterpart Louise Haigh said his admission was ‘astonishing’, warning it would ‘seriously undermine’ the UK’s authority on the international stage.

Changes to the bill reportedly led to the resignation of the UK’s top legal civil servant Sir Jonathan Jones yesterday. The Attorney General’s Office (AGO) declined to comment on the reason for his exit but the Financial Times reported he quit over a policy dispute with No.10.

It later emerged Rowena Collins Rice, director general at the AGO, had also quit her post.

She is the seventh high-ranking civil servant to resign from office since the government came to power in December.

A spokeswoman at the AGO said: ‘She has accepted a public appointment which will be announced this Friday.’