European Commission vice-president Maros Sefcovic called the the immediate withdrawal of the Government’s Internal Market Bill during a tense stand-off with Michael Gove. The Brussels bureaucrat accused Downing Street of threatening Good Friday Agreement with its plans to hand ministers the power to overrule chunks of last year’s EU Withdrawal Agreement. He also insisted the bloc could take legal action against Britain, which includes massive financial and trade sanctions.
The warning came during an emergency meeting of the Brexit Joint Committee demanded by the bloc after the publication of the legislation.
Mr Sefcovic told “the UK Government to withdraw these measures from the draft bill in the shortest time possible and in any case by the end of the month”.
He added: “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.”
A European Commission statement said: “If the Bill were to be adopted, it would constitute an extremely serious violation of the Withdrawal Agreement and of international law.
“The EU does not accept the argument that the aim of the draft Bill is to protect the Good Friday Agreement. In fact, it is of the view that it does the opposite.
“He 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.”
During the meeting, Mr Gove handed over a legal opinion drawn up by Attorney General Suella Braverman.
The Government’s top lawyer said Parliament was well within its rights to breach international treaty obligations.
But she insisted the plan was for Downing Street to respect the commitments it signed up to in the Withdrawal Agreement last year.
She said: “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 relationships.
“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 mater of domestic law and can pass legislation which is in breach of the UK’s treaty obligations.”
Published at Thu, 10 Sep 2020 14:57:00 +0000