Friday, 23 Oct 2020

Boris Johnson told to dump withdrawal agreement before Christmas or face ‘fishing wars’

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A new report published by the Centre for Brexit Policy think tank has set out an alarming timetable of events which they say will unfold if Mr Johnson does not scrap the Withdrawal Agreement (WA) and Northern Ireland protocol (NIP). The analysis, written by lawyers including Barney Reynolds of Shearman and Sterling, Martin Howe QC, and DUP MP Sammy Wilson, comes as arguments continue to rage over Mr Johnson’s Internal Market Bill, which would give the Government powers to override some parts of the WA relating to Northern Ireland.

However, the CBP says the problems with the WA are so fundamental, they cannot be solved by piecemeal legislation.

The authors, therefore, urge Mr Johnson to “appreciate the consequences” of failing to scrap it before December 31, after which both will be “cemented in place”.

The report warns: “Such an outcome could likely permanently affect the legal, political, and basic structure of the country leaving it facing a series of devastating events.”

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In the first year, it would result in the European Commission stating the numerous UK businesses are “improper under EU state aid law”, with the resulting court case heading to the European Court of Justice.

Additionally, the bloc will attempt the create obstacles for City firms trading in Europe, while the CBP also predicts “fish wars” will break out in the Channel.

The following year the ECJ will rule the UK’s new employment laws violate the rights of EU citizens under the WA and must be repealed.

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As a result, in 2023, EU citizens living in the UK take cases to the ECJ, claiming discrimination, and win, with the court constantly ruling in favour of the EU.

Additionally the bloc will impose financial and trading penalties against the UK for persistent breaches of the WA and NIP.

Finally, in 2024, the CBP raises the chilling prospect being sucked into the EU’s debt nightmare with the eurozone teetering on the brink, with the EU telling the UK to contribute to a bailout programme, claiming the nation is liable through its investment in the European Investment Bank (EIB).

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The report explains: “Recent events have increasingly questioned the acceptability of the concluded and ratified Withdrawal Agreement and Northern Ireland Protocol that encroach on UK sovereignty by imposing EU law, European Court of Justice jurisdiction, uncapped liabilities and other EU demands on the UK.

“It might be thought, in the event of a ‘no’ or a ‘limited’ deal at the end of this year, that these EU imposed legal constraints would simply fall away when the Transition Period ends. However, this is not the case.

“The flaws and inconsistencies in the EU’s position need to be grasped and addressed, not acquiesced in, whether wittingly or unwittingly.

“The Government’s Internal Market Bill, while addressing some conflicts in the WA, does not achieve a sovereignty-compliant exit from the Transition Period.”

The widespread belief appeared to be that the UK’s problems would be alleviated by walking away from trade deal talks with the bloc – but the CBP said this was a misconception.

The report explains: “The UK cannot permit the WA/NIP to remain in effect after 31 December 2020 in any form.

“Both options of ‘Walking Away’ and agreeing a ‘limited’ deal leave the WA/NIP in place with no redress – and a ‘limited’ deal is likely to give the EU everything it wants in terms of a trading relationship and would perpetuate the UK’s long-existing trade imbalance.

“Contrary to widespread impression, ‘Walking Away’ leaves the WA/NIP in place and the UK with no redress in the face of an EU that cannot be expected to have the UK’s best interests at heart.”

After the end of the transition period, failure to act would mean, even if there is ‘no deal’ on the future relationship, significant areas of EU law will continue to have direct effect within the UK, prevail in UK domestic courts over UK laws (including even over future Acts of Parliament), be bindingly interpreted by judgments of the ECJ and be enforceable by direct actions by the EU Commission, in the ECJ and in an international arbitral body bound by ECJ rulings, the CBP says.

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