ONE of Boris Johnson’s ministers has admitted that the UK Government is set to break international law in a bid to override the Brexit deal.

Brandon Lewis, the Northern Ireland Secretary, shocked MPs yesterday when he said international law would be broken in a “very specific and limited way”.

Former Prime Minister Theresa May was left incredulous, saying the move would damage the UK’s reputation as a trustworthy partner among other nations.

Ministers are set to add the new laws that re-interpret the withdrawal treaty – agreed with Brussels earlier this year – to the Internal Market Bill, due to be tabled in the Commons today.

That’s the same piece of legislation that’s been branded a “power grab” by the Scottish Government.

The legislation – the text of which will only be seen today – is supposed to ensure goods from any nation of the UK can have unfettered access to any other nation. But the Tories have made clear they want to change state aid rules agreed as part of the Northern Ireland protocol – intended to prevent a return to checks at the border with the Irish Republic.

Sir Bob Neill, Tory chairman of the justice select committee, asked: “The secretary of state has said that he is committed and the Government are committed to the rule of law. Does he recognise that adherence to the rule of law is not negotiable?

“Against that background, will he assure us that nothing that is proposed in this legislation does or potentially might breach international legal obligations or international legal arrangements that we have entered into?”

Lewis replied: “I would say that yes this breaks international law in a very specific and limited way.

“We are taking the power to disapply the EU concept of direct effect required by Article 4 in a 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”.

READ MORE: The 10 funniest tweets about Tories breaking the law in a 'limited and specific way'

May said that ministers were seeking to change the operation of an agreement which the Government had signed up to and parliament had passed into UK law.

“Given that, how can the Government reassure future international partners that the UK can be trusted to abide by the legal obligations of the agreements it signs?” she asked.

Nathalie Loiseau, a close ally of president Macron and MEP on the Brexit co-ordinating group of the European Parliament, said: “You don’t ‘break international law in a specific and limited way’. You do break it or you don’t. You can’t be half illegal, as you can’t be half pregnant.”

The SNP’s Joanna Cherry called on Richard Keen, the Lord Advocate to follow Jones out the door.

She said: “Richard Keen as the UK Government’s law officer for Scotland stood by the prorogation of parliament by Boris Johnson’s government.

“That decision was found to be unlawful by a unanimous decision of the Supreme Court.

“Less than a year later the UK Government is intent on breaching its international treaty obligations under the Withdrawal Agreement. I would not expect Law Officers to remain in their post where the Government they advise proposes to take unlawful action.

“Richard Keen should the protect integrity of Scots law and governance, he should show the same courage of his convictions as Jonathan Jones the head of the UK Government’s legal division and quit.”

Brexiteers defended Johnson’s move, with some calling for him to go further and scrap the whole deal if the EU refused to make concessions on a trade agreement.

Iain Duncan Smith, the former party leader, said that the Government was “quite within its rights” to revisit the withdrawal agreement.

Meanwhile, Scottish Government constitution secretary Michael Russell said the legislation demonstrated that the UK is “not a genuine partnership of equals”.

“This is a shabby blueprint that will open the door to bad trade deals and unleashes an assault on devolution the like we have not experienced since the Scottish Parliament was established.

“We cannot, and will not, allow that to happen.”

However, Scottish Secretary Alister Jack claimed the legislation would respect and strengthen devolution. “I hope the devolved administration will work with us,” he said.