Brussels issues UK with end-of-month deadline to remove elements of Boris Johnson’s Brexit bill

PUBLISHED: 16:38 10 September 2020 | UPDATED: 17:08 10 September 2020

EU's chief negotiator Michel Barnier (left) arriving from the Eurostar with EU Ambassador to the UK, Portuguese diplomat Joao Vale de Almeida at St Pancras International railway station, London. Photograph: Aaron Chown/PA Wire

EU's chief negotiator Michel Barnier (left) arriving from the Eurostar with EU Ambassador to the UK, Portuguese diplomat Joao Vale de Almeida at St Pancras International railway station, London. Photograph: Aaron Chown/PA Wire

The EU has called on the UK government to withdrawal aspects of Boris Johnson’s Brexit bill that override the Withdrawal Agreement by the end of September or risk ending trade negotiations without a deal.

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European Commission vice president Maros Sefcovic said Britain had “seriously damaged trust” with Brussels after it introduced a bill that deviates from the Withdrawal Agreement signed by the prime minister.

In an emergency meeting in London, he told Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove that the EU does not accept the legislation is needed to protect the peace process in Northern Ireland.

And he warned that Brussels is “of the view that it does the opposite” in a statement released after the “extraordinary meeting” of the joint committee between the two sides.

He said “in no uncertain terms” that the “timely and full implementation” of the divorce deal is “a legal obligation”, according to the statement.

“Violating the terms of the Withdrawal Agreement would break international law, undermine trust and put at risk the ongoing future relationship negotiations,” it added.

He called on the government to remove measures relating to state aid and the Withdrawal Agreement from the draft bill “in the shortest time possible and in any case by the end of the month”.

He stated that by putting forward this legilsation, the UK has seriously damaged trust between the EU and the UK.

“It is now up to the UK government to re-establish that trust,” the statement said.

Liberal Democrat Brexit spokesperson Christine Jardine said: “No one can really be surprised that the measures the UK government have brought forward have put the likelihood of a trade deal in jeopardy.

“This proposal undermines trust and the UK’s standing on the world stage. The government must now act swiftly to erase anything that violates international law or that could undermine the Good Friday Agreement.

“For the sake of the future of our country the government must stop playing fast and loose with the rule of law.”

Naomi Smith, chief executive of anti-Brexit campaign group Best for Britain, said: “Any trust the EU may have had in the UK government appears to have evaporated. With so much at stake – not least peace in Northern Ireland – it is imperative that the prime minister moves immediately to restore some international faith in the trustworthiness of our country. Brand Britain has been toxified.

“It is not just our future relationship with the EU that is at risk here: the US has made it clear that a trans-Atlantic trade deal would be scuppered in the event that Britain fails to honour the Good Friday Agreement.

“For all our sakes, it’s time for cool heads to prevail.”

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