The UK and the EU are set for a heated emergency meeting today over Boris Johnson’s decision to breach the Brexit withdrawal agreement by adding a number of “clarifications”.
An “extraordinary” meeting of the UK-EU Joint Committee is scheduled for this afternoon, along with a one-on-one meeting between Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove and the European Commission’s Maroš Šefčovič.
The EU has said it wants an explanation of how the UK government’s new internal market bill will change the terms of the withdrawal agreement as it relates to Northern Ireland.
The emergency meeting concerns Johnson’s decision to give the UK powers to unilaterally “disapply” rules about movement of goods from Great Britain to Northern Ireland, after the end of the Brexit transition period on 31 December.
From 1 January, Northern Ireland will remain in the EU customs union, while the rest of the country will not.
The Sun reported yesterday that the reason for the UK’s actions was that the EU was threatening to block the transport of goods between Northern Ireland and Great Britain after the UK leaves the transition period.
Johnson said the changes would “ensure the integrity of the UK internal market”, however they are also a breach of the withdrawal agreement, which has infuriated Brussels.
President to the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen said she was “very concerned”, while former Prime Minister Sir John Major said Johnson’s actions threaten doing damage to the UK’s international reputation.
Chief UK negotiator Lord David Frost will also meet his EU counterpart Michel Barnier today for the final time during the current round of post-Brexit trade deal talks.
Both sides have put a deadline of 15 October to agree to a deal, however the latest fiasco over Northern Ireland has increased the prospect of a no-deal exit.
Barnier has said in the past that there can be no trade deal between the UK and EU if one side does not respect the withdrawal agreement.
A senior EU source told The Times: “My gut feeling is that the British government has opted for no-deal.”