Brussels is suing the United Kingdom over plans to violate last yearâ€™s Brexit withdrawal agreement, which could lead to Britain being hauled before the European Court of Justice, Financial Times reports.
Ursula von der Leyen, the European Commission president, said that Brussels had sent a â€śletter of formal noticeâ€ť to the UK over prime minister Boris Johnson’s â€śinternal market bill.â€ťThe letter is the first stage of formal EU â€śinfringement proceedings.â€ť
The commission decided to act even though the UK bill is not yet law because it believes Johnson has breached â€śgood faithâ€ť provisions in last yearâ€™s treaty by even tabling the draft legislation.Â
â€śThis draft bill is by its very nature a breach of the obligation of good faith laid down in the withdrawal agreement, moreover, if adopted as is, it will be in full contradiction to the protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland,â€ť von der Leyen. She said that Britain had one month to send its observations before Brussels escalates the process.
Brussels moved to act after the UK government ignored an end of September deadline issued by the EU for the offending articles of the bill to be removed. With that deadline having passed at midnight, Brussels has taken the earliest possible opportunity to launch legal action, arguing that the integrity of last yearâ€™s deal is at stake.
Under the terms of last yearâ€™s deal, the commission can still initiate such infringement proceedings even though Britain has left the EU.
The British government’s bill would allow the UK to override crucial parts of the delicate compromise that Johnson and the EU negotiated last year on Northern Ireland â€” notably on sensitive points around state aid and export documentation.
Brussels has insisted, since news of the billÂ first brokeÂ in September, that the measures must be scrapped, but UK Cabinet Office Minister, Michael Gove told the commission on Monday that Britain would not back down.Â
â€śThe deadline lapsed yesterday, the problematic provisions have not been removed.
â€śThe commission will continue to work hard towards a full and timely implementation. We stand by our commitments,â€ť von der Leyen said.
A UK government spokesperson said: â€śWe will respond to the letter in due course.â€ť
â€śWe have clearly set out our reasons for introducing the measures related to the Northern Ireland protoco.
â€śWe need to create a legal safety net to protect the integrity of the UKâ€™s internal market,” spokesperson said
UK officials played down the significance of the legal move and its likely impact on negotiations.
â€śThey are always infracting someone,â€ť said one official, adding that the timetable for the legal action was the most important thing.