Britain has breached “good faith” articles of the EU-UK withdrawal agreement by introducing the internal market bill and will face imminent legal action if it does not change course, European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen said on Thursday.
Dr von der Leyen warned that London’s internal market bill, which reverses aspects of the withdrawal agreement related to checks between Britain and Northern Ireland agreed last year, would be a further breach of European Union and international law if it is is passed in parliament.
The European Commission has sent a letter of “formal notice” to the British government, the first step in infringement proceedings, after it missed the Wednesday deadline given by the EU to remove the problematic parts of the internal market bill or face legal action.
“This draft bill is by its very nature a breach of the obligation of the good faith laid down in the withdrawal agreement. Moreover if adopted as it is it will be in full contradiction to the protocol of Ireland-Northern Ireland,” Dr von der Leyen said.
“The deadline lapsed yesterday, the problematic provisions have not been removed. Therefore this morning the commission has decided to send a letter of formal notice to the UK government. This is the first step in an infringement procedure.”
The letter invites the British government to respond with its “observations” within a month.
The announcements raises the stakes as crunch talks between Britain and the EU continue this week to try to avoid the prospect of a no deal exit on January 1, with the two sides still divided over issues such as fishing, state aid, and governance.
Taoiseach Micheál Martin meets with Dr von der Leyen in Brussels on Thursday ahead of a meeting of the 27 leaders of the EU at which he will be invited to address the council on Ireland’s perspective on the progress of talks with Britain.