Brexit LIVE: Boris Johnson given ONE DAY deadline to respond to EU legal action on Brexit
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Tomorrow (October 31) marks four weeks since European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said the EU would begin legal proceedings to prevent the UK from trying to use the Internal Market Bill to override key aspects of the Withdrawal Agreement signed last year. She had set the end of this month as a deadline for the UK to respond. Brussels had been infuriated by the Prime Minister and his Government, who had ignored demands to changes in the legislation, which could give ministers the powers to change parts of the divorce deal – namely on trade with Northern Ireland – and subsequently break international law.
The EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier has repeatedly said the implementation of the Withdrawal Agreement is a prerequisite for any trade agreement and future political relationship deal with the UK, while Brussels argues the treaty has the legal force of an international agreement and can’t be changed.
When announcing the move for legal action on October 1, Ms von der Leyen launched a scathing attack against the UK, describing the Internal Market Bill as “a breach of the obligation of good faith”.
She had said: “We had invited our British friends to remove the problematic parts of their draft Internal Market Bill by the end of September. The deadline lapsed yesterday.
“The problematic provisions have not been removed, therefore this morning, the Commission has decided to send a letter of formal notice to the U.K. government. This is the first step in an infringement procedure.” A second deadline for response was set for the end of this month.
European Commission Vice President Maros Sefcovic had previously warned wouldn’t hesitate to use the legal remedies in the Withdrawal Agreement if the U.K. refused to amend the legislation.
But the UK Government has refused to stand down on the Bill, with Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove immediately insisting the legislation would remain and thanks to a compromise with Conservative Party rebels, was voted through the House of Commons, forcing Ms von der Leyen into launching legal proceedings.
Britain has continued to remain undeterred by the threats from Brussels, with the Bill currently being scrutinised by hundreds of peers in the House of Lords.
A showdown in the upper chamber is scheduled for November 9, with peers planning to vote on amendments during the committee stage.
But this could push Mr Johnson into a new crisis, with proposals to scrap the offending clauses that would break international law, with the expectation the Government will be easily defeated.
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