Brexit: EU starts legal action against UK over withdrawal agreement breach

Brexit: EU starts legal action against UK over withdrawal agreement breach
Credit: Belga

The European Commission is launching an infringement procedure against the United Kingdom for breaching the 2019 Brexit Agreement, Commission President Ursula von der Leyen announced on Thursday.

The UK's controversial new Internal Market Bill “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 said in a press release.

UK leaders themselves have acknowledged that the bill is in violation of the agreement, with Prime Minister Boris Johnson calling the new powers the bill brings “an insurance policy,” adding that “if we reach agreement with our European friends – which I still believe is possible – they will never be invoked.”

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That said, “the problematic provisions" of the Internal Market Bill have not been removed, von der Leyen said in a statement.

By failing to remove the provisions in question, “the UK has breached its obligation to act in good faith, as set out in Article 5 of the Withdrawal Agreement,” the Commission said, prompting them to send a letter of formal notice, which is the first step in an infringement procedure.

“The letter invites the UK government to send its observations within a month," von der Leyen said.

“And besides this, the Commission will continue to work hard towards a full and timely implementation of the Withdrawal Agreement. We stand by our commitments,” von der Leyen said.

The letter of formal notice comes amid a ninth round of negotiations between the EU and the UK on their future relationship.

Jason Spinks

The Brussels Times

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