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EU launches legal action against UK over plans to breach Brexit treaty

Issued on: 01/10/2020 – 11:52Modified: 01/10/2020 – 12:07

EU chief Ursula von der Leyen declared Thursday that Brussels has begun legal action over the British government's attempt to overturn parts of the Brexit withdrawal agreement.

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"This morning, the Commission has decided to send a letter of formal notice to the UK Government. This is the first step in an infringement procedure," von der Leyen said.

London now has one month to reply to the letter of complaint, which could lead to a lawsuit at the Luxembourg-based European Court of Justice and hefty fines for the UK.

The legal action underscores the worsening relations between the EU and its former member at a time when both sides are trying to forge a rudimentary free trade agreement before the end of the year.

On Tuesday, British lawmakers adopted a bill to regulate the UK's internal market from January 1, when Britain will complete its post-Brexit transition period and leave the EU single market and customs union.

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The proposed law, by London's own admission, overwrites parts of the withdrawal treaty that Prime Minister Boris Johnson signed with EU leaders last year, a breach of international law.

Johnson's government has described this bill as a "safety net" in case post-Brexit trade talks fail and the EU tries to impose a customs border between Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

But EU capitals — including Dublin — see these provisions as key to preventing a return of a hard border with Ireland and preserving the good relations underpinned by the Good Friday peace deal in Northern Ireland.

"As you know, we had invited our British friends to remove the problematic parts of their draft internal market bill by the end of September," von der Leyen said.

"This draft bill is by its very nature, a breach of the obligation of good faith laid down in the withdrawal agreement. Moreover, if adopted as is, it will be in full contradiction to the protocol of Ireland, Northern Ireland.

"The deadline lapsed yesterday, the problematic provisions have not been removed."

Clouds trade negotiations

A statement from the European Commission said that the bill would breach Article 5 of the Withdrawal Agreement, which states that both sides must "cooperate in good faith&quRead More – Source