EU Announces Legal Action Against UK Over Brexit Deal

The UK has been put on formal notice over its internal market bill, which overwrites sections of the Brexit divorce agreement.

The EU has begun legal proceedings against the UK after it refused to drop legislation that would invalidate sections of its Brexit deal.

Ursula von der Leyen, the European Commission president, said in a statement on Thursday that Prime Minister Boris Johnson had been given until the end of September to remove the contentious clauses in the draft legislation, but “the deadline had lapsed”.

“This draft bill is by its very nature, a breach of the obligation of good faith, laid down in the withdrawal agreement,” von der Leyen said. “Moreover, if adopted as is it will be in full contradiction to the Protocol on Ireland and Northern Ireland.”

As the contentious provisions in the draft had not been removed, she said, “The Commission has decided to send a letter of formal notice to the UK Government. This is the first step in an infringement procedure.”

As it currently stands, the internal market bill would grant ministers legal powers to determine rules on state aid and goods moving between Northern Ireland and mainland Britain, overriding elements of the Northern Ireland protocol that was agreed to in October 2019 in order to avoid a return to a hard border in Ireland.

Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis conceded in early September 2020 that the internal market bill would break international law in “a specific and limited way.”

The UK said it would respond to the EU’s legal action “in due course,” adding: “We have clearly set out our reasons for introducing the measures related to the Northern Ireland Protocol. We need to create a legal safety net to protect the integrity of the UK’s internal market, ensure Ministers can always deliver on their obligations to Northern Ireland and protect the gains from the peace process.”

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