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EU Takes Legal Action Over Brexit Bill 10/01 06:17


   BRUSSELS (AP) -- The European Union took legal action against Britain on 
Thursday over its plans to pass legislation that would breach parts of the 
legally binding divorce agreement the two sides reached late last year.

   The EU action underscored the worsening relations with Britain, which was a 
member of the bloc until Jan. 31. Both sides are trying to forge a rudimentary 
free trade agreement before the end of the year, but the fight over the 
controversial U.K. Internal Market bill has soured relations this month.

   European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said that the British 
plan "by its very nature is a breach of the obligation of good faith laid down 
in the Withdrawal Agreement."

   "If adopted as is, it will be in full contradiction to the protocol of 
Ireland-Northern Ireland" in the withdrawal agreement," she said.

   EU leaders fear that if the U.K. bill becomes law, it could lead to the 
reimposition of a hard land border between Northern Ireland, which is part of 
Britain, and EU member Ireland, and erode the stability that has underpinned 
peace since the 1998 Good Friday accord.

   The EU had given London until Wednesday to withdraw the bill, but U.K. 
lawmakers voted 340-256 Tuesday to push the legislation past its last major 
hurdle in the House of Commons.

   Von der Leyen said "the deadline lapsed yesterday. The problematic 
provisions haven't been removed. Therefore this morning, the commission has 
decided to send a letter of formal notice to the U.K. government," which augurs 
the start of a protracted legal battle.

   "The commission will continue to work hard towards a full and timely 
implementation of the Withdrawal Agreement," she said. "We stand by our 

   The bill must also be approved by the U.K.'s House of Lords, where it is 
sure to meet strong opposition because it breaches international law.

   The British government stood its ground in an immediate reaction, saying "we 
need to create a legal safety net to protect the integrity of the U.K.'s 
internal market, ensure ministers can always deliver on their obligations to 
Northern Ireland and protect the gains from the peace process."

   If the Internal Market Bill becomes law, it will give Britain the power to 
disregard part of the Brexit withdrawal treaty dealing with trade to and from 
Northern Ireland, which shares a 300-mile (500-kilometer) border with the 
Republic of Ireland.

   The U.K. government says it respects the Good Friday peace accord and the 
Brexit withdrawal agreement, but wants the law in case the EU makes 
unreasonable demands after Brexit that could impede trade between Northern 
Ireland and the rest of the U.K.

   Prime Minister Boris Johnson's large parliamentary majority ensured the bill 
passed its final House of Commons vote on Tuesday night, despite resistance 
from opposition parties and even some members of the governing Conservative 

   At the same time, EU and U.K. officials were continuing talks on a trade 
deal, going into detailed negotiations over everything from fisheries rights, 
state aid rules and legal oversight in case of disputes.

   Time is short for the U.K. and the EU to mend fences. A transition period 
that followed Britain's Brexit departure ends in less than 100 days, on Dec. 31.

   The EU-U.K. trade negotiating session is supposed to wrap up Friday but 
expectations are that negotiations will continue right up to an Oct. 15-16 EU 
summit, which British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has set as a deadline for a 
deal. The EU said talks could continue right up to the end of the month.

   Britain says it wants a free trade deal along the lines of the one the EU 
has with Canada, allowing for goods to be traded with no tariffs or quotas.

   The EU says if the U.K. wants access to EU markets it must respect standards 
that EU companies have to live by since Britain is just too close to allow for 
undercutting rules that would allow for so-called "dumping" of U.K. merchandise 
at prices lower than in the EU.

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