The European Union told Britain on Thursday it should urgently scrap a plan to break their divorce treaty, but Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government refused and pressed ahead with a draft law that could sink four years of Brexit talks.
With chances growing of a messy end to Britain’s departure from the EU, the European Commission said London would be committing “an extremely serious violation” of last year’s Withdrawal Agreement if it went ahead with proposed legislation.
Brexit supporters protest at the Europe House in London, Britain, on September 9, 2020. (Reuters)
Without a trade agreement, nearly $1 trillion in trade between the EU and Britain could be thrown into confusion at the start of 2021, compounding the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
But Britain is pressing one of the EU’s most sensitive buttons -- fear that a post-Brexit Britain could become a much more deregulated free-market competitor with access to EU markets by using selective state aid.
The latest dispute centers on rules for Northern Ireland, which shares a land border with EU member Ireland, because under the divorce deal it remains within the EU’s orbit -- a restriction Britain wants to remove.
Britain again on Thursday openly admitted it was ready to breach international law. Former British leaders Theresa May and John Major scolded Johnson for considering an intentional breach of international law.
US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Britain would not get a trade deal with the United States if it did anything to undermine the 1998 Northern Irish peace agreement.
“This news comes to us... that the UK had decided to undermine the Good Friday Accords. What were they thinking?” she told reporters in Washington. “Whatever it is, I hope they’re not thinking of a UK-US bilateral trade agreement to make up for what they might lose.”
A general view at the start of a round of post-Brexit trade deal talks between the EU and the United Kingdom, in Brussels, Belgium, on June 29, 2020. (Reuters)