Thursday

7th Jul 2022

EU warns London over undermining Brexit agreement

  • The UK’s prime minister Boris Johnson (right) has set 15 October as the cut-off date to reach a post-Brexit trade agreement (Photo: European Commission)

The president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, warned on Monday (7 September) that the UK is legally obliged to respect the Brexit withdrawal agreement - after a new British piece of legislation was reported to undermine the already-agreed divorce pact.

Reports, first in the Financial Times, suggested that the new internal market bill could "override" the legal force of the withdrawal agreement in issues relating to Northern Ireland and state aid provisions.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

But the British government responded that it would only mean "minor clarifications in extremely specific areas".

"I trust the British government to implement the Withdrawal Agreement, an obligation under international law and a prerequisite for any future partnership," von der Leyen tweeted on Monday.

"Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland is essential to protect peace and stability on the island and integrity of the single market," she added.

In London, a government spokesperson said that the UK was still committed to implementing the withdrawal agreement and the Northern Irish Protocol - which prevents a hard land border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, ensuring the well-functioning of the EU's single market.

"We are taking limited and reasonable steps to clarify specific elements of the Northern Ireland protocol in domestic law to remove any ambiguity and to ensure the government is always able to deliver on its commitments to the people of Northern Ireland," he said.

Despite having formally left the bloc last January, the UK remains in the so-called transition period until the end of 2020, as both parts try to secure a post-Brexit trade agreement with no tariffs and quotas.

October surprise

However, the UK's prime minister Boris Johnson on Monday set 15 October as the cut-off date to reach a post-Brexit trade agreement, saying that there is no sense in thinking about timelines beyond this date.

"If we can't agree by then, then I do not see that there will be a free trade agreement between us," he said, according to a statement released by its office.

Ahead of the eight-round of negations, which begins on Tuesday in London, the European Union's chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier expressed his concerns about the upcoming talks - which have been mainly focussed on clashes over state-aid rules and fishing quotas.

"I remain worried," Barnier told French radio on Monday, adding that "the British would like the best of both worlds - export their products to the European market on their terms".

'Backmail'

Meanwhile, the European Parliament's trade committee chief, MEP Bernd Lange, said that he was "shocked" by the way UK counterparts are negotiating.

"I haven't seen anything like it in decades. We will not allow ourselves to be blackmailed. We stick to agreements," he said in a statement.

"What madness to believe today that one can achieve actual sovereignty in complete independence. The British illusion of sovereignty will lead to the greatest loss of sovereignty in British history," he added.

For his part, the president of the European Council, Charles Michel, referred to the issue as an ongoing battle to defend the EU's interests.

"We might be losing the UK, but we won't lose our stiff upper lip," he said.

EU warns UK to abide by Brexit political declaration

"No significant progress" has been made on the latest round of talks between the UK and EU on how their relationship should look from January, according to Michel Barnier. The EU told UK to stick to its prior commitments.

Agenda

Post-Brexit and summer travel talks This WEEK

Post-Brexit talks between the UK and EU enter a crucial phase this week - the last round before a legal deadline expires on extending a transition period.

EU summit to urge UK to make a move

EU leaders, gathering in person in Brussels despite increasing Covid-19 fears, will urge London to make a move in the tortuous negotiations on a post-Brexit trade deal. They will also talks about climate, Covid and the budget.

EU's Brexit move could end deadlock in talks

London was irked by the conclusion of the EU summit last week, which demanded that the UK moved on key hurdles on the substance of the negotiations - such as fair completion and fisheries.

Opinion

Nato's Madrid summit — key takeaways

For the most part Nato and its 30 leaders rose to the occasion — but it wasn't without room for improvement. The lesson remains that Nato still doesn't know how or want to hold allies accountable for disruptive behaviour.

Column

One rubicon after another

We realise that we are living in one of those key moments in history, with events unfolding exactly the way Swiss art historian Jacob Burckhardt describes them: a sudden crisis, rushing everything into overdrive.

News in Brief

  1. Report: British PM Johnson to resign today
  2. British PM defiant amid spate of resignations
  3. France says EU fiscal discipline rules 'obsolete'
  4. Russia claims untouchable status due to nuclear arsenal
  5. Catalan MEPs lose EU court case over recognition
  6. 39 arrested in migrant-smuggling dragnet
  7. France to nationalise nuclear operator amid energy crisis
  8. Instant legal challenge after ok for 'green' gas and nuclear

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Canadian ministers join forces to combat harmful content online
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers write to EU about new food labelling
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersEmerging journalists from the Nordics and Canada report the facts of the climate crisis
  4. Council of the EUEU: new rules on corporate sustainability reporting
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers for culture: Protect Ukraine’s cultural heritage!
  6. Reuters InstituteDigital News Report 2022

Latest News

  1. Is Orban holding out an olive branch to EPP?
  2. EU should freeze all EU funds to Hungary, says study
  3. Legal action looms after MEPs back 'green' nuclear and gas
  4. EU readies for 'complete Russian gas cut-off', von der Leyen says
  5. Rising prices expose lack of coherent EU response
  6. Keeping gas as 'green' in taxonomy vote only helps Russia
  7. 'War on Women' needs forceful response, not glib statements
  8. Greece defends disputed media and migration track record

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us