European Union fumes over British defiance, but will press on with Brexit talks

Daniel Fowler
September 10, 2020

An open border would violate the peace agreement that ended decades of violence in Northern Ireland.

The new legislation could allow ministers to effectively get around the binding agreements the United Kingdom has already entered into with Ireland and the EU.

And Downing Street claimed yesterday that the Withdrawal Agreement was "not like any other treaty" because it was sealed "at pace in the most challenging possible political circumstances".

United Kingdom government ministers on Wednesday published a draft version of the controversial "Internal Market Bill", which admittedly in practice would break global law by overriding parts of Brexit's withdrawal agreement from the European Union.

Last November, while campaigning for the Democratic nomination, Mr Biden said he cared a great deal about the Northern Ireland peace process and that he would continue to put pressure on Britain to ensure there is no return to a hard border after Brexit.

After Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis admitted the current government's plans would break worldwide law in a "specific and limited way", it caused alarm across the UK's political spectrum.

In the Commons, Mr Johnson defended the legislation, saying it provided a "legal safety net" to protect against "extreme or irrational interpretations" of the Northern Ireland provisions of the agreement which could lead to the creation of "a border down the Irish Sea".

EU Commission boss Ursula von der Leyen said that such tricky legal moves "break worldwide law and undermines trust", warning that the controversial bill might throw London's trade talks with the bloc under the bus.

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Mr Lewis told the House of Commons that the move will indeed break worldwide law "in a limited and specific way".

One EU official said Johnson's strategy with the new legislation amounted to "kicking the can down the road again" and hoping that he can clinch a breakthrough at the very last moment.

The Good Friday agreement was signed in April 1988, marking the end of the period in Northern Ireland's history known as "The Troubles".

'For generations, Britain's word - solemnly given - has been accepted by friend and foe.

During an interview with LBC's Shelagh Fogarty, the Labour MP said it was in the "national interest" for the Government to "deliver the promise they made at the general election" and "reach an agreement with the European Union".

The meeting of the UK-EU Joint Committee, co-chaired by Mr Gove and Mr Sefcovic, comes after the Speaker of the US House of Representatives insisted there was "absolutely no chance" of a US-UK trade deal if the Northern Ireland peace process was jeopardised.

US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi released a statement Wednesday, stressing on the importance of Northern Ireland's Good Friday accord and outlining that "Brexit can not be allowed to imperil the Good Friday Agreement".

"By taking this route, at this point in time, a no-deal scenario is the most probable outcome of the Brexit negotiations", said Weber, who is chairman of the centre-right EPP Group. But both sides have so far failed to reach a consensus regarding competition rules and fishing rights, and Johnson said Britain will walk away from negotiations if there is no agreement by October 15.

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