Ursula von der Leyen quotes Margaret Thatcher as she warns UK against disregarding Brexit deal

Ursula von der Leyen addresses MEPs

Ursula von der Leyen addresses MEPs. Photograph: Daina LE LARDIC/European Parliament.

European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen has warned that the UK cannot unilaterally disregard the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement, as she quoted former Tory prime minister Margaret Thatcher.

In her annual State of the Union address to the European Parliament, Von der Leyen said both sides had agreed it was the only way to guarantee the Northern Ireland peace process.

“This Withdrawal Agreement took three years to negotiate and we worked relentlessly on it line-by-line, word-by-word, and together we succeeded,” she said.

“The European Union and the UK jointly agreed that it was the best and only way for ensuring peace on the island of Ireland and we will never backtrack on that.

“This agreement has been ratified by this house and the House of Commons. It cannot be unilaterally changed, disregarded, disapplied.

“This is a matter of law and trust and good faith.”

She said that time is running out for agreement with the UK on a post-Brexit free trade deal.

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The European Commission president told the European Parliament meeting in Brussels: “Talks have not progressed as we would have wished and that leaves us very little time.”

Von der Leyen said Margaret Thatcher had always insisted that the UK honoured its treaty commitments.

She quoted the former prime minister as saying: “Britain does not break treaties. It would be bad for Britain, bad for relations with the rest of the world and bad for any future treaty on trade.”

She added: “This was true then and this is true today. Trust is the foundation of any strong partnership.”

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