EU calls for urgent talks on Johnson’s Brexit deal changes

The European Commission has called for urgent talks with Britain as the Government set out its plans to override key elements of the Brexit deal signed by Boris Johnson.

Commission president Ursula von der Leyen said she was “very concerned” following the tabling in Parliament of the UK Internal Market Bill, which ministers have admitted will breach international law.

As talks continued in London on a post-Brexit free trade agreement, she warned such actions would “undermine trust” and called on the Prime Minister to honour his past commitments.

Ministers have argued legislation is necessary to protect the Northern Ireland peace process if the two sides are unable to agree a free trade deal before the current Brexit transition period runs out at the end of the year.

However, commission vice president Maros Sefcovic said he was seeking an urgent meeting of the joint EU-UK committee on the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement to enable the British to “elaborate” on their plans.

Speaking at a news conference in Brussels, Mr Sefcovic said he had raised his concerns in a phone call on Tuesday with Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove – his co-chair on the committee.

“I expressed our strong concerns and sought assurances that the UK will fully and timely comply with the Withdrawal Agreement, including the protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland,” he said.

“The Withdrawal Agreement is not open for renegotiation and we expect the letter and the spirit of the Withdrawal Agreement will be fully respected. I think on that we have to be very, very clear.”

Brexit
Boris Johnson told MPs the measures would provide a ‘legal safety net’ (House of Commons/PA)

In the Commons, Mr Johnson defended the legislation, saying it provided a “legal safety net” to protect against “extreme or irrational interpretations” of the Northern Ireland provisions of the agreement which could lead to the creation of “a border down the Irish Sea”.

However, Mrs von der Leyen tweeted: “Very concerned about announcements from the British government on its intentions to breach the Withdrawal Agreement. This would break international law and undermines trust.

“Pacta sunt servanda (agreements must be kept) = the foundation of prosperous future relations.”

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