Michelle O'Neill accuses Secretary of State of telling 'porkies'

NI Secretary of State Brandon Lewis. Credit: PA

Northern Ireland Secretary of State Brandon Lewis has told a Westminster committee that he consulted with NI parties before telling MPs the controversial Internal Market Bill would break international law.

However, Sinn Féin's deputy leader responded on Twitter to say he did not indicate the potential legal breach at the time.

UUP party leader, Steve Aiken MLA says his party were consulted, but they told Mr Lewis it was a "deeply and massively flawed piece of legislation".

The SDLP and Alliance leaders have said they were not told the bill would break the NI Protocol. 

The Internal Market Bill has an impact on the protocol, part of the EU withdrawal agreement intended to prevent a hard border returning to the island of Ireland after Brexit if no trade deal is reached.

Mr Lewis sparked a backlash after admitting steps being taken by the Government in relation to the Withdrawal Agreement would break international law in a "specific and limited way".

He was challenged by MPs when he appeared virtually before the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee of MPs on Wednesday.

Brandon Lewis maintained that his assertion was "absolutely in line" with the views of top lawyers advising the Government.

South Belfast SDLP MP Claire Hanna challenged Mr Lewis.

She said: "Do you understand why people cannot trust your government and do you have any handle on the anxiety and the unease and the instability that your government is creating every day in Northern Ireland?"

Mr Lewis said he disagreed.

"We all wanted to ensure that we gave the House a straight answer."

Despite the heated rhetoric on both sides of the post-Brexit talks, Mr Lewis insisted he believed the EU was acting in "good faith" during the negotiations and did not believe the row over the UK Internal Market Bill would derail the talks.

He added: "I think the negotiators on both sides are very capable of being focused on negotiations."