Monday 28 September 2020 2:30 pm

Brexit: EU renews legal threat against UK over controversial bill

The EU has doubled down on its threat to take legal action against the UK unless it withdraws its controversial internal market bill that could breach the Brexit withdrawal agreement.

European Commission Vice President Maroš Šefčovič said the EU would “not be shy” in using legal methods to stop the UK implementing the legislation after the end of the Brexit transition period on 31 December.

“The UK’s position is far apart from what the EU can accept,” Šefčovič said.

Boris Johnson’s internal market bill contains clauses that would be activated if the UK leaves the EU’s single market and customs union on 31 December without striking a trade deal with Brussels.

The clauses would see the UK override parts of the Brexit withdrawal agreement – primarily relating to the flow of goods between Great Britain and Northern Ireland – and therefore break international law.

Šefčovič threatened legal action against the UK earlier this month unless parts of the bill that breach the withdrawal agreement are dropped by the end of September, however this is unlikely to happen.

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The Vice President repeated his threat after today meeting with Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove in a UK-EU Joint Committee summit.

“Once again, I reminded the UK government today that the withdrawal agreement contains a number of mechanisms and legal remedies to address the violation of the legal obligations contained in the text,” he said.

“And I underscored that the EU will not be shy in using it. When we will do it, how we will do it – proceed, you will have to give us a little bit of time and we will inform you in due course.”

Šefčovič’s comments come as the UK and EU will tomorrow begin the ninth round of formal trade negotiations, with a deal reportedly in sight.

Chief UK negotiator Lord David Frost and his EU counterpart Michel Barnier are set to hammer out the final details of a deal one-on-one over a two-week period starting at the end of the week, according to the Sunday Times.

Frost has reportedly budged on his refusal to accept Brussels’ demands that the UK adopt the EU’s state subsidy rules as a part of a level playing field for businesses on both sides of the channel.

The UK will likely accept some rules as dictated by the EU as to how much the government can subsidise companies in order to secure zero-tariff trade with European nations.

The EU is also reportedly prepared to ensure that there is free movement of goods between Northern Ireland and Great Britain.