EU starts legal action against UK over controversial Brexit law

The European Union is starting legal proceedings against the UK over Boris Johnson’s plan to breach terms of its Brexit divorce deal and break international law.

“The commission has decided to send a letter of formal notice to the UK government,” European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen announced in Brussels on Thursday 1 October. “This draft bill is by its very nature a breach of the obligation of good faith laid down in the Withdrawal Agreement.”

The Internal Market Bill sets out rules for the operation of the UK internal market – trade between England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland – after the end of the Brexit transition period in January.

The legislation contradicts key clauses of the Northern Ireland Protocol and hands ministers the power to determine rules on state aid and goods moving from Northern Ireland to Great Britain.

The EU had given London until 30 September to withdraw the bill but instead, MPs voted 340 to 256, in favour of the United Kingdom Internal Market Bill at its third reading, despite warnings that the legislation threatens the Union and the country’s global reputation. It must also be approved by the House of Lords, where it is sure to meet strong opposition because it breaches international law.

A spokesperson for the UK government said the bill was a necessary “safety net” to protect trade between different parts of the UK.

At the same time, EU and UK officials were continuing talks on a trade deal, going into detailed negotiations over everything from fisheries rights, state aid rules and legal oversight in case of disputes.

Also, Boris Johnson will speak to the president of the EU Commission on Saturday to “take stock” of post-Brexit trade negotiations and “discuss next steps”.

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