Responding to the UK government’s controversial ‘internal market bill’ with regards to Brexit talks, European Union Commission President Ursula von der Leyen Wednesday accused British Prime Minister Boris Johnson of breaking international law and undermining the EU’s trust.
The EU chief’s statement, tweeted minutes after the UK government published the new bill, suggests that it will have a direct impact on the trade and security negotiations currently underway in London, The Guardian reported.
The new UK internal markets bill immediately courted controversy as parts of it allegedly negated the countries’ Brexit withdrawal agreement, which was signed by Johnson in 2019. The bill was introduced just as EU’s top negotiator Michel Barnier arrived in London to engage in discussions on potential trade and security deals.
However, the EU has repeatedly made it clear that it will not introduce any deal with the UK unless the country fully implements last year’s withdrawal agreement. Despite the EU’s warnings, PM Johnson has said that the bill will “ensure the integrity of the UK internal market” when the Brexit transition period ends, BBC reported.
He added that it would also hand power over to Scotland and protect the Northern Ireland peace process.
Critics have disagreed, believing instead, that the bill will override sections of the Northern Ireland protocol, which was signed along with the withdrawal deal last year.
Here are the top developments on the EU-Brexit deal:
EU demands emergency meeting with UK over new bill
The European Union on Wednesday called for an emergency meeting with the United Kingdom after it introduced its new internal markets bill, which undermined several clauses in the withdrawal agreement signed between the EU and Britain last year, AFP reported.
“I will call for an extraordinary joint committee on the withdrawal agreement to be held as soon as possible so that our UK partners elaborate and respond to our strong concerns on the bill,” EU Vice President Maros Sefcovic said in a press briefing.
‘New bill breaks international law and undermines trust, says EU chief
In a tweet shared soon after the British government published the bill, European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen, and the president of the European council, Charles Michel, both issued statements condemning the move.
“Very concerned about announcements from the British government on its intentions to breach the withdrawal Agreement,” von der Leyen’s tweet read, according to a report by the Guardian. “This would break international law and undermines trust. Pacta sunt servanda = the foundation of prosperous future relations.”
The Withdrawal agreement was concluded and ratified by both sides, it has to be applied in full.
Breaking international law is not acceptable and does not create the confidence we need to build our future relationship #Brexit
— Charles Michel (@eucopresident) September 9, 2020
Meanwhile, former Belgium Prime Minister Charles Michel’s tweet read, “The Withdrawal agreement was concluded and ratified by both sides, it has to be applied in full. Breaking international law is not acceptable and does not create the confidence we need to build our future relationship.”
UK’s new bill will act as ‘legal safety net’, says PM Johnson
Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Wednesday urged British MPs to support the internal market bill, which seeks to modify the Brexit deal. He assured them that the bill would “ensure the integrity of the UK internal market” when the Brexit transition period ends, BBC reported.
At the Prime Minister’s questions in the House of Commons, Johnson insisted that the bill was aimed at “protecting jobs, protecting growth and ensuring the fluidity and safety of our UK internal market and prosperity throughout the United Kingdom”.
“My job is to uphold the integrity of the UK but also to protect the Northern Irish peace process and the Good Friday Agreement, and to do that we need a legal safety net to protect our country against extreme or irrational interpretations of the protocol which could lead to a border down the Irish Sea,” he added.
New bill could damage trust in UK over future trade deals: Theresa May
Former British PM Theresa May raised concerns on Tuesday that the changes to the Withdrawal Bill could damage trust in the country over future deals with other nations, BBC reported.
“The government is now changing the operation of that agreement. 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 during a session of the House of Commons yesterday, Euronews reported.
Earlier that afternoon, the Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis had said that the proposed bill did undermine international laws. “But the Withdrawal Agreement and Protocol are not like any other treaty. It was written on the assumption that subsequent agreements could be reached between us and the EU on the detail,” he pointed out.
Senior govt lawyer quits over Brexit withdrawal agreement changes
The UK government’s most senior lawyer Sir Jonathan Jones, who was serving as permanent secretary to the Government Legal Department, resigned from his position a day before the internal markets bill was set to be introduced, BBC reported.
A spokesperson for the Attorney General’s office confirmed his resignation, making him the sixth senior civil servant to leave the government this year. According to sources, Jones felt that the new bill went too far in undermining international law, a BBC report stated.
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