EU takes legal action against Britain over U.K. bill that violates Brexit deal, international law
The executive branch of the European Union informed British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Thursday that it's taking legal action over legislation that would breach the legally binding EU-U.K. divorce deal passed last year and also, by the Johnson government's own admission, violate international law. European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen announced the legal action, saying Britain's Internal Market Bill "will be in full contradiction to the protocol of Ireland-Northern Ireland" agreed to in the Brexit accord. London has until Oct. 31 to respond.
The EU had set a Wednesday deadline for Britain to withdraw the bill, which gives London the power to ignore the Brexit deal's agreement on the 300-mile-long border between Ireland — which is part of the EU — and Northern Ireland, part of the U.K. The EU and U.S. lawmakers are concerned that Britain may reimpose a hard border between the two nations, reigniting the long conflict pacified by the 1998 Good Friday accord. Johnson's government insists it respects the Good Friday accord and Brexit agreement but wants a "safety net."
The lower chamber of Parliament, the House of Commons, passed the Internal Market Bill on Tuesday night, 340-256, over strenuous objections from opposition lawmakers and some members of the ruling Conservative Party. It is expected to face a tougher fight in the House of Lords, where the violations of international law are being taken more seriously.
This further breakdown in EU-U.K. ties will also complete ongoing trade negations. The talks are supposed to conclude Friday, but they are expected to continue for at least two more weeks. If no agreement is reached, Britain leaves the EU on Dec. 31 with no trade arrangement.