London, Oct 1 (PTI) The European Union (EU) on Thursday began legal proceedings against the UK over concerns that parts of a legislation tabled in the House of Commons breaches the Brexit divorce agreement.
An EU deadline for the Boris Johnson government to remove sections of the Internal Market Bill expired on Wednesday, resulting in a 'letter of formal notice' being issued, which could lead to a court case against Britain at the European Court of Justice, the EU's supreme court.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said the UK would have until the end of November to respond to the EU's concerns over the draft legislation.
“We had invited our British friends to remove the problematic parts of their draft internal market bill by the end of September,” she told reporters in Brussels.
'This draft bill is by its very nature a beach of the obligation of good faith laid down in the withdrawal agreement. Moreover, if adopted as is, it will be in full contradiction of the protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland. The deadline lapsed yesterday (Wednesday), the problematic provisions have not been removed. Therefore, this morning (Thursday) the Commission has decided to send a letter of formal notice to the UK government. This is the first step in an infringement procedure,” she said.
A spokesperson for the UK government said Britain would respond in due course, stressing that the Bill was a necessary 'safety net' to protect trade between different parts of the UK.
British parliamentarians had given their final nod to the controversial Internal Market Bill earlier this week and it is now on the way to the House of Lords before it becomes law. In a bid to address concerns that the bill goes against the UK's agreed obligations, ministers have granted Parliament a say before powers are enforced to override parts of the Brexit divorce deal in the event of no new trade agreement with the EU.
Meanwhile, the latest round of EU-UK talks to thrash out such a post-Brexit trade agreement continue in Brussels this week, with a mid-October deadline for both sides to arrive at the broad contours of a deal.
The UK formally left the EU in January and is currently in a transition period, which comes to a close at the end of December. Both sides must strike a deal before then, with the default position being a no-deal Brexit which would see them trade on more broad World Trade Organisation (WTO) terms. PTI AK RS RS