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Europe sues Britain over breaching Brexit withdrawal deal

15:06 | 02/10/2020

The EU has initiated legal procedures against the United Kingdom for breaching obligations set out in Article 5 of the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement.

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europe sues britain over breaching brexit withdrawal deal
Europe sues Britain over breaching Brexit withdrawal deal. (Photo: The Telegraph)

The European Union launched legal action against Britain on Thursday, saying Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s attempt to rewrite the Brexit withdrawal agreement was “by its very nature a breach of the obligation of good faith.” Seattle Times stated.

The Commission has announced through a press release issued today, October 1, that a letter of formal notice has been sent to the UK, thus marking the beginning of a formal infringement process against the former EU member.

On September 9 2020, the UK government tabled a Bill (‘United Kingdom Internal Market Bill’) that, if adopted, would flagrantly violate the Protocol on Ireland / Northern Ireland, as it would allow the UK authorities to disregard the legal effect of the Protocol’s substantive provisions under the Withdrawal Agreement,” the Commission explains.

It further adds that UK government representatives have acknowledged this violation, stating that its purpose was to allow it to depart in a permanent way from the obligations stemming from the Protocol, Schengen Visa Info cited.

President von der Leyen: The draft bill is a breach of goodwill

The Withdrawal Agreement was ratified by both the EU and the UK and entered into force in February 2020 with legal effects under international law. According to it, throughout the transition period, the EU Court of Justice has jurisdiction, and the Commission has the powers conferred upon it by Union law in relation to the UK.

Since then, the UK has often been accused of not cooperating on reaching a deal that would please both parts, for what many have accused it of cherry-picking. Back in June, a group of MEPs accused the UK of cherry-picking certain policies and for insisting on having access to the single market after Brexit, which the MEPs deem as “unacceptable” for the EU.

In a press release announcing the start of legal procedures against the UK regarding several parts of its draft, Internal Market Bill the EU Commission president reiterated that the bill is a breach of the obligation of good faith laid down in the Withdrawal Agreement.

If adopted as is, it will be in full contradiction to the Protocol on Ireland / Northern Ireland,” she said. She also noted that the deadline to remove the problematic provisions lapsed yesterday.

europe sues britain over breaching brexit withdrawal deal
President von der Leyen: The draft bill is a breach of goodwill. (Photo: Seattle Times)

Senior EU leaders ideas

“Very concerned about announcements from the British government on its intentions to breach the Withdrawal Agreement,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen wrote on Twitter. “This would break international law and undermines trust.”

Other European officials confessed they were unsure how to interpret what was happening.

“You know, the British and Boris Johnson, in particular, are always in a bluffing strategy. We should remain calm, but we need to be prepared,” French Trade Minister Franck Riester told France’s BFM Business radio on Wednesday. “Because, in the eventuality of a no-deal, we must be absolutely prepared for the consequences, which will be difficult.”

E.U. diplomats and policymakers have been dismayed by the British bill, viewing it as an almost absurdist culmination of years of Brexit antics, with Johnson’s government threatening to undermine an agreement it signed less than a year ago and that hasn’t even fully gone into effect.

The E.U. is now sending a “letter of formal notice,” which could lead to a legal showdown in the European Court of Justice, The Washington Post cited.

Britain has a month to reply. Government ministers earlier acknowledged that their domestic legislation would violate international law. A British government spokesperson said Thursday, “We will respond to the letter in due course.”

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Valerie Mai