Brexit: UK And EU Set For Emergency Talks As Tensions Rise
The EU says it wants “clarifications” on the implementation of the agreement.
It addresses the Northern Ireland Protocol – an element of the withdrawal agreement designed to prevent a hard border returning to the island of Ireland.
The bill proposes no new checks on goods moving from Northern Ireland to Great Britain. It gives UK ministers powers to modify or “disapply” rules relating to the movement of goods that will come into force from 1 January, if the UK and EU are unable to strike a trade deal.
But critics say the move will damage the UK’s international reputation after a minister admitted the plans break international law.
European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen said she was “very concerned” following the tabling of the bill in Parliament, and that such actions “undermine trust” with the EU.
The proposed bill has also sparked criticism within the UK.
Former prime minister Sir John Major said: “For generations, Britain’s word – solemnly given – has been accepted by friend and foe. Our signature on any treaty or agreement has been sacrosanct.”
He added: “If we lose our reputation for honouring the promises we make, we will have lost something beyond price that may never be regained.”
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer urged the government to consider “the reputational risk that it’s taking in the proposed way forward”.
Maros Sefcovic has already spoken to Mr Gove by phone but said he has called this emergency meeting because he wants to hear in person precisely what the government’s intentions are.
Before leaving Brussels, Mr Sefcovic echoed other European leaders when he insisted the withdrawal agreement was not up for renegotiation.
He said he hoped Michael Gove would assure him that the letter, the spirit and the timetable of the agreement would be respected.
If not, there’s talk of Brussels possibly taking legal action.
The outcome of today’s meeting is also significant for the future of trade talks between the two sides.
The meeting of the UK-EU Joint Committee, co-chaired by Mr Gove and Mr Sefcovic, will also be attended by Northern Ireland’s first minister and deputy first minister Arlene Foster and Michelle O’Neill.
Nancy Pelosi said in a statement: “Whatever form it takes, Brexit cannot be allowed to imperil the Good Friday Agreement, including the stability brought by the invisible and frictionless border between the Irish Republic and Northern Ireland.
This latest round of negotiations are due to conclude on Thursday, and the UK government has said it is prepared to walk away if progress is not made soon.