LONDON – There was a confrontation between Britain and the European Union, with Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government breaking international law after Brussels demanded the early withdrawal of the proposed Brexit law.
The ultimatum, which was swiftly rejected by Mr Johnson’s government, is the most serious crisis yet for the UK to negotiate a trade deal after leaving the EU trade area. The talks have so far failed to make significant progress.
The controversy suggests that the moment of truth is moving fast.
The proposed legislation would pass aspects of a historic Brexit withdrawal agreement incorporating the treatment of the border between Northern Ireland, which is part of the United Kingdom, and Ireland, which will remain in the European Union.
In strong words underscoring the growing tension, the European Commission – the executive arm of The Bloc – suggested that it is ready to take legal action against the British government, accusing it of jeopardizing Northern Ireland’s fragile peace process .
Mr Johnson himself struck a withdrawal agreement with the European Union and chose it as a resounding victory during last year’s election. It was designed to prevent the creation of a rigid border between Northern Ireland and Ireland.
But Maros Šefčovič, vice chairman of the European Commission, said Mr Johnson’s draft bill is “an extremely serious violation” of international law, and called for its withdrawal by the end of the month. As stated, the law will give Britain the right to decide how it can implement sensitive aspects of the unilateral treaty through negotiations with the European Union.
The demand was rejected by Michael Gov, a senior cabinet minister in the British government, who said that the British government had made it perfectly clear that it would not withdraw the bill, while admitting that it was a limited Breaks international law in ways.
In issuing its ultimatum, the European Union stopped taking an irreversible step or walking away from trade talks. And both sides agreed to talk the following week after Britain’s chief negotiator, David Frost, described as a “fruitful exchange” that took place separately on Thursday.
He and his counterpart, Michel Barnier, are required to reach an agreement on trade next month if it is to be confirmed by the end of the year when the UK stops trading under EU rules.
“The EU says that you have until the end of the month,” said David Hennig, director of the UK Trade Policy Project at the European Union’s International Center for International Political Economy, a research institute. It is a difficult situation if we reach a deal by mid-October. The European Union is not going back. “
Claiming earlier this week that Mr. Johnson did not have plans, it was claimed earlier this week that failing to reach a trade agreement with the European Union would still be a “good outcome.” While he has shown resilience in the past, and his government has made a series of policy vicissitudes, the government has taken an unsympathetic line over Brexit, giving some indication that it intends to compromise, let alone Brussels.
While another crisis in the Brexit negotiations seemed almost inevitable, some expected a confrontation about keeping an agreement that had already been signed and sealed. Britain argues that its new draft law cannot cancel a trade deal with Brussels, but it is unclear whether it will pass through Parliament.
Critics said the risk of misscalls was high for Mr Johnson. Far from being a peripheral issue, provisions on the Irish border are the focal point of the withdrawal agreement. He united 27 members of the bloc during the long, divisive talks with Britain over Brexit, as they are seen so closely with the Irish keeping peace.
“The EU is not allowing peace to be established in Ireland,” said Mujtaba Rahman, an expert on Brexit in the Eurasia Group’s political risk consultancy. “They see very clearly what the government is doing, and they are not going to bully. Britain is playing a very dangerous game of chicken with Europe. “
Gamesmanship has other international consequences.
Democratic leaders in Washington warned Mr. Johnson that he was risking his hopes for a trans-Atlantic trade deal. Underlining the provisions of Northern Ireland in the withdrawal agreement, he said, would endanger the Good Friday Accord, a peace deal reached under President Bill Clinton, ending decades of communal violence in Ireland.
California Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in a statement on Wednesday, “If the UK violates that international treaties and Brexit violate the Good Friday Agreement, there will be no chance of the US-UK trade agreement being fulfilled. “
Rep. Richard E. Neil, a Massachusetts Democrat who heads the powerful House Ways and Means Committee, called on Britain to uphold the withdrawal agreement.
“I sincerely hope that the British government upholds the rule of law and says this on the commitments made during the Brexit negotiations, especially in relation to the Irish border,” Mr Neal said in a statement.
“Every political party on the island opposes the withdrawal of a hard border,” he said.
Democratic candidate, former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. is a staunch Ireland defender who said he would have voted against Brexit if he had been a British citizen. Antony Blinken, one of his top foreign policy advisers, suggested in a tweet this week that Mr Biden was watching the situation carefully.
Mr Biden, he wrote, “is committed to hard work and the preservation of peace and stability in Northern Ireland”. He said, “As the UK and the European Union look at their relationship, any arrangement should protect the Good Friday Agreement and prevent the withdrawal of a tougher border.”