Brussels is standing firm on its demand for the UK to abandon plans to override key elements of the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement, despite ministers agreeing a compromise with Tory rebels.
Boris Johnson was forced to agree to table an amendment to the UK Internal Market Bill, giving MPs a vote before the Government can use powers which would breach the deal brokered with the EU last year.
His controversial plan to break international law angered scores of his backbenchers, and prompted the European Commission to demand the provisions in the Bill relating to the Withdrawal Agreement be dropped by the end of the month.
But despite the Government’s compromise, Brussels said on Thursday that its position had not changed and it still wanted the clauses to be withdrawn from the legislation.
Eric Mamer, chief spokesman for the European Commission, told a press briefing: “We have as you know set out a position extremely clearly, it is in our statement, and it relates to those clauses being withdrawn from the law.
“That position has not changed and we have asked the UK to do this at the earliest possible convenience, and by the end of September at the latest. That has not changed.”
The spokesman also insisted the EU carries out negotiations in “good faith”, after the Prime Minister told MPs on Wednesday he did not believe they had acted as such in the Brexit talks.
Mr Mamer said: “I think that Michel Barnier showed, in the context of the negotiations on the Withdrawal Agreement, that even on extremely complex and politically sensitive issues the Commission and indeed the EU negotiate in perfectly good faith.”
🇪🇺🇬🇧 President @vonderleyen:
“Trust is the foundation of any strong partnership.”
“The Withdrawal Agreement took three years to negotiate. We worked relentlessly. We will never backtrack. This agreement has been ratified by this House and the House of Commons.”
— Michel Barnier (@MichelBarnier) September 16, 2020
It came as US presidential election frontrunner Joe Biden insisted the Good Friday peace deal in Northern Ireland cannot become a “casualty” of Brexit.
The Democratic Party nominee for the White House said a future trade deal between the US and UK could only happen if the peace agreement was respected.
Mr Biden tweeted: “We can’t allow the Good Friday Agreement that brought peace to Northern Ireland to become a casualty of Brexit.
“Any trade deal between the US and UK must be contingent upon respect for the Agreement and preventing the return of a hard border. Period.”
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, on a visit to Washington, accused Brussels of the “politicisation” of Northern Ireland issues in the context of Brexit trade talks.
We can’t allow the Good Friday Agreement that brought peace to Northern Ireland to become a casualty of Brexit.
Any trade deal between the U.S. and U.K. must be contingent upon respect for the Agreement and preventing the return of a hard border. Period. https://t.co/Ecu9jPrcHL
— Joe Biden (@JoeBiden) September 16, 2020
He said the EU stance threatened the Good Friday Agreement.
Mr Raab said he had made clear the UK has an “absolute” commitment to the Good Friday Agreement.
“The UK action here is defensive in relation to what the EU is doing, it is precautionary, we haven’t done any of this yet, and it is proportionate,” he said.
“What we cannot have is the EU seeking to erect a regulatory border down the Irish Sea between Northern Ireland and Britain.”