EU readies legal action against Britain

Brussels is alerted over London's plan to break Brexit deal

Britain and the European Union will hold emergency talks on Thursday over PM Boris Johnson’s plan to undercut parts of the Brexit divorce treaty, with Brussels exploring possible legal action against London, news wires reported. Commission VP Maros Sefcovic flew urgently to London to meet British counterpart Michael Gove as chief negotiators Michel Barnier and David Frost were to hold trade talks.

If unhappy with what London says, the EU could use a part of the Withdrawal Agreement to take legal action against Britain, though there would be no resolution before the end-of-year deadline for Britain's full exit. “The dispute-settling mechanism under the Withdrawal Agreement is there,” an EU diplomat dealing with Brexit told Reuters.

Two other EU officials said the Commission would analyse Britain's proposed Internal Market Bill - overriding parts of the Withdrawal Agreement - once it is passed to take account of amendments before making a final decision on the legal case. A note distributed by the EU executive to the 27 EU member states said the bloc could start so-called infringement procedures against Britain.

The British government says its planned law, put forward on Wednesday, merely clarifies ambiguities in the Withdrawal Agreement, but also says its main priority is the 1998 Northern Irish peace deal that ended decades of violence. It said the bill would be debated on Monday.

Europe's leaders have been handed an ultimatum: accept the treaty breach or prepare for a messy divorce when Britain disentangles itself from the EU at the end of the year. Britain signed the treaty and formally left the EU in January, but remains a member in all but name until the end of 2020 under a status quo agreement.

More on this subject: Brexit

Similar articles