European Commission vice-president Maros Sefcovic said violating the Withdrawal Agreement would break international law and jeopardise trade deal talks, according to an EU statement.
He told British Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove “in no uncertain terms” that the “timely and full implementation” of the divorce deal is “a legal obligation”.
“Violating the terms of the Withdrawal Agreement would break international law, undermine trust and put at risk the ongoing future relationship negotiations,” the statement said.
The EU did not “accept the argument” that the UK Internal Market Bill was needed to protect the Good Friday Agreement.
“In fact, it is of the view that it does the opposite,” the statement said.
“Vice-president Maros Sefcovic called on 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 stated that 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.”
According to draft EU legal advice seen by RTÉ News earlier today, the European Commission would be allowed to take legal action on several grounds if the UK decided to override elements of the Northern Ireland Protocol in the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement.
The advice, which has been circulated to member states, says that the Withdrawal Agreement was ratified by both the EU and UK and entered into force on 1 February.
“Since then, no party can unilaterally change, clarify, amend, interpret or disapply it anymore,” the advice says.
The EU has reacted angrily to the publication yesterday of the Internal Market Bill, by which the UK government reserves the right to unilaterally interpret the protocol’s rules on state aid and customs declarations.
An emergency meeting of the EU-UK Joint Committee, set up by the Withdrawal Agreement to implement the Protocol, has been called by the European Commission and will take place in London at lunchtime.
The EU’s legal advice says the Northern Ireland Protocol “forms an integral part of the Withdrawal Agreement… If adopted as proposed, this bill will be in clear breach of substantive provisions of the Protocol…”
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