THE UK Government has broken international law, its own cabinet minister has admitted.

Brandon Lewis, secretary of state for Northern Ireland, told MPs that amendments to the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement would break the law in a "limited way". 

He was responding to a question from his Tory colleague Sir Bob Neil, who asked for assurances that nothing in tomorrow's anticipated internal markets bill would break international regulations.

Mr Lewis shocked MPs by saying: "I would say to my honourable friend that, yes, this does break international law in a very specific and limited way. 
"We’re taking the power to disapply the EU law concept of direct effect required by article 4 in certain very tightly defined circumstances.

"There are clear precedents for the UK, and indeed other countries, needing to consider their international obligations as circumstances change. And I would say to honourable members here, many of whom would have been in this house when we passed the Finance Act in 2013 which contains an example of treaty override. 

"It contains provisions that expressly disapply international tax treaties to the extent that these conflicted with the general anti-abuse rule.

"And I would say to my honourable friend we are determined to ensure we are delivering on the agreement we have in the protocol and our leading priority is to do that through the negotiations and through the joint committee work.

"The clauses which will be in the bill tomorrow are specifically there for should that fail to ensure that we are able to deliver on our commitments to the people of Northern Ireland." 

The admission comes after reports that the UK Government were planning legislation which could undermine the EU withdrawal agreement, including the Northern Ireland protocol. 

The internal markets bill will be brought before the house tomorrow, and has caused controversy with the SNP arguing it is an attempt to take power away from Holyrood. 

However it has now emerged that elements of the plan could mean the UK reneges on part of the brexit withdrawal agreement with the EU, which is a legally binding agreemeent. 

It could open the country up to a court battle with the bloc. 

Ed Davey, Liberal Democrats leader, said it was a "shocking state of affairs"
He added: "This is a really sad and shocking state of affairs for our country.

"Breaking international law will do untold damage to our reputation abroad, it will make us poorer and make it harder to solve global crises like the climate emergency." 

Alliance Party leader Naomi Long tweeted: “The Secretary of State for NI has just conceded in Parliament that Govt are about to break international law. His defence seems to be that ‘it’s only in a very limited way’.

“I’m not sure you can be a little bit illegal. It’s a bit like being a little bit pregnant.”

SNP MP Kirsten Oswald, the party's deputy leader in Westminster, previously told Mr Lewis: "This using the internal market Bill to renege on parts of the Withdrawal Agreement is extraordinary and dangerous.”

"Who will want to do business with a Government that can’t stick to an agreement with itself, never mind with anyone else?”

Mr Lewis replied: “We have a distinct difference of opinion because where as the SNP want to hand back powers straight to Brussels, we the UK Government and the Conservative Party have been clear, we want to take those powers back for the residents and citizens of the UK and indeed we will be devolving power to the devolved authorities.”