Post-Brexit Deadlock: EU Launches Infringement Proceedings Against UK Over Breaching Brexit Treaty

Written by | Friday, October 2nd, 2020

Commission President Ursula von der Leyen threw down the gauntlet after weeks of jaw-dropping moves by the UK’s government that plans to override sections of the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement through its contentious Internal Market Bill. The European Commission had given the British government time till the end of September to withdraw the controversial provisions from its Internal Market Bill, which it announced earlier this month. “The deadline lapsed yesterday. The problematic provisions have not been removed,” Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said yesterday (1 October), adding that the Commission has “decided to send a letter of formal notice to the UK government – this is the first step in an infringement procedure.”
The UK government, which has one month to reply to the Commission’s letter, reiterated in a statement that its bill is designed to “create a legal safety net to protect the integrity of the UK’s internal market.” After having issued several warnings to UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson that it would “not be shy” in taking legal action if he went ahead with the bill, now Brussels has upped the ante, slamming London for having “breached its obligation to act in good faith, as set out in Article 5 of the Withdrawal Agreement.“ The Withdrawal Agreement was signed in January after it was renegotiated by Johnson and approved by UK and EU lawmakers. It sets out the terms of the UK’s exit from the bloc. But Johnson says he is opposed to – and wants to renegotiate – the measures set by the Northern Ireland Protocol as it would create a de-facto border between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK in the Irish Sea.
After the announcement that the Commission has sent the UK a letter of formal notice for breaching its obligations under the Withdrawal Agreement, the EPP, Parliament’s largest political group, said in a statement that “[it welcomes] the European Commission’s decision to launch a legal action against the UK over the Internal Market Bill.” It also sends a stern warning to London: “We stand by our commitments and don’t see why the UK can’t do the same. And a message to Boris Johnson: provocation is not a good method of negotiation.” Meanwhile, the “They need us more than we need them.” argument often advanced by Brexit supporters in the wake of the UK’s 2016 referendum sounds increasingly hollow. The clout of EU business – German cars, French wine, Italian Prosecco, Danish bacon – would weigh in Britain’s favour in the negotiations, they used to claim. But now, barely three months before the 31 December cutoff date and with talks on future arrangements in a quagmire, many major British exporters to Europe have sounded cries of alarm. Unless there is a deal, they warn of disruption and higher costs on both sides of the English Channel.

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