The European Union (EU) has told the United Kingdom (UK) it may take legal action against the British government if it does not reverse plans to introduce a bill that would break international law by overriding parts of the EU Withdrawal Agreement designed to avoid a border across the island of Ireland.
The UK’s Withdrawal Agreement designed to remove the UK from the EU was signed by Prime Minister Boris Johnson and approved in the Westminster parliament last year following difficult negotiations with the EU.
After an emergency meeting on Thursday, September 10, of the joint EU-UK committee that is dedicated to enacting the deal, the EU’s executive body said the plan by the British government undermines trust, places negotiations to reach future deals in future in question, and puts at risks the Good Friday Agreement.
EU co-chair of the joint committee Maroš Šefèoviè told his counterpart British cabinet minister Michael Gove that if the bill were adopted “it would constitute an extremely serious violation of the Withdrawal Agreement and of international law”
Mr Šefèoviè “reminded the UK government that the Withdrawal Agreement contains a number of mechanisms and legal remedies to address violations of the legal obligations contained in the text – which the European Union will not be shy in using,“the commission warned.
“Violating the terms of the Withdrawal Agreement would break international law, undermine trust and put at risk the ongoing future relationship negotiations,” the commissions said.
The EU also rejected claims by the UK that the new bill was necessary to protect peace in the North.
“The EU does not accept the argument that the aim of the draft Bill is to protect the Good Friday (Belfast) Agreement. In fact, it is of the view that it does the opposite,” the statement said.
“By putting forward this Bill, the UK has seriously damaged trust between the EU and the UK. It is now up to the UK government to re-establish that trust.” The bill if adopted in its current form would be in “clear breach” of protocols of the Withdrawal Agreement regarding customs and state aid, and the British government would also “be in violation of the good faith obligation” according to the EU.
But the UK government on Thursday afternoon, has now defended itself, saying it didn’t break any international law or legalities, as the UK parliament would not be acting “unconstitutionally” in enacting the UK Internal Market Bill.
“It is an established principle of international law that a state is obliged to discharge its treaty obligations in good faith. This is, and will remain, the key principle in informing the UK’s approach to international relations.
“However, in the difficult and highly exceptional circumstances in which we find ourselves, it is important to remember the fundamental principle of Parliamentary sovereignty.”
“Parliament is sovereign as a matter of domestic law and can pass legislation which is in breach of the UK’s treaty obligations” and “would not be acting unconstitutionally in enacting such legislation.”
The statement went on: “The legislation which implements the Withdrawal Agreement, including the Northern Ireland Protocol, is expressly subject to the principle of parliamentary sovereignty.
“Parliament’s ability to pass provisions that would take precedence over the Withdrawal Agreement was expressly confirmed in section 38 of the European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Act 2020, with specific reference to the EU law concept of ‘direct effect’.”