The European Union is taking legal action against the UK for breaching the Brexit agreement they both reached last year.
Early last month, Brandon Lewis, the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, hinted that the UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his government are preparing a legislation that will “break international law in a very specific and limited way” and alter some of the contents of the Brexit deal.
Part of the move involves altering the Northern Ireland protocol, which includes keeping the border open between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, which was part of the agreement reached between Johnson’s government and Brussels last year.
The move by the UK government has tension flaring between London and Brussels and drew international condemnation, with the United States’ House Speaker Nancy Pelosi warning that it could impact the US’ trade relationship with the UK. One EU diplomat, who spoke on anonymity told CNN last month: “If the UK chose not to respect it, then theoretically the EU would have to take legal measures.”
Now the EU is living up to that statement by taking legal steps to address the matter. The President of EU Commission, Ursula von der Leyen said part of the steps the EU has taken to address the matter is inviting the UK to “remove the problematic arts of their draft internal market bill by the end of September.”
She added that “the draft bill is by its very nature a breach of the obligation of good faith laid down in the Withdrawal Agreement, and will be in full contradiction of the Northern Ireland Protocol.”
The Northern Protocol means that the only land border between the UK and EU on the island of Ireland will remain open and there’ll be no need for border checks. The UK legislation will mean border checks that could rekindle the past history of violence between Ireland and Northern Ireland.
The explanation given by the UK said the legislation is geared toward fostering seamless trade between four UK nations in case they reach a no deal Brexit at the end of the year. That means, it may not have to use the legislation if a deal is reached.
However, the legislation, being a breach of existing agreement couldn’t be ignored by the EU. The Commission therefore, writes a letter of formal notice to the UK, a standing procedure for the body in any case of infringement, to notify them of its stand.
“The letter invites the UK government to send its observations within a month and besides this the Commission will continue to work hard towards full and timely implementation of the Withdrawal Agreement. We stand by our commitment,” von der Leyen concluded.
While the EU awaits response, the trade talks between London and Brussels are entering its final phase. CNN reported that the last formal round of talks are taking place right now and an EU summit will take place on October 15, where negotiators hope a deal will be on the table for EU leaders to approve.
The two sides are more likely to reach a deal, though there are disagreements over key issues that revolve around ‘UK’s ability to use state aid in order to prop up British businesses.’ According to the report, the EU says this could give British companies an unfair advantage over EU companies.
Among many other issues of dispute are fishing rights and governance. As the conflict of interest grows, both sides are also preparing for a no deal which will mean the UK sticking to its legislation and the EU proceeding with legal action.
As the UK nears its one-month deadline for response, the barrage of conflicting issues from both sides of the negotiation forays uncertainties. CNN reported that the timeline for the UK’s response to the EU’s letter means a deal could be reached in the meantime. But there is a danger, the report noted. There is increasing concern over what each side could concede on, and only a few people know exactly what either side could let go of.
So the negotiation could swirl unprecedentedly from a deal to a no deal by default, and getting a deal will mean that one side will have to yield, which means moving the dial to favor one side.