According to press reports, the dysfunctional Conservative Party government in the United Kingdom is trying to gain parliamentary support for its Draft Withdrawal Agreement with the European Union by convincing members of its own hardline anti-EU faction, the European Research Group, and its far-right allies in the Democratic Unionist Party, that the UK can renege on the proposed deal at a future date by invoking an extremely dubious reading of international law. The Telegraph newspaper in London claims that Geoffrey Cox, the Attorney General for England and Wales, has told the ERG and DUP that Britain can break the suggested treaty if it is willing to argue that the included Backstop Protocol required by Brussels and Dublin is causing a “socially destabilising effect on Northern Ireland” instead of bringing stability to the contested region. This requires a controversial and downright mendacious interpretation of the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties, which most legal experts have so far dismissed out of hand.
And what counts as a “socially destabilising effect” on Britain’s legacy colony in Ireland? Would it be Irish northern nationalist parties gaining a majority of votes in a local or region-wide election in the disputed territory? Or mass demonstrations against restrictions on cross-border movement by communities north and south of the partition line? Not only is the alleged UK Brexit strategy legally and ethically underhand but it may well turn out to be extremely dangerous if the sort of revanchist forces take power in London that we have seen emerging among the British political class since 2016.