The European Union (EU) has reiterated of mulling legal options if the UK breaches the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement with the controversial Internal Market Bill, which will override some parts of the deal, it was reported.
The remarks were made by Maros Sefcovic, Vice-President of the European Commission for Interinstitutional Relations, after a meeting with UK Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove on Monday, Euro News said in a report.
“The Withdrawal Agreement is to be implemented, not to be renegotiated, let alone unilaterally changed, disregarded or disapplied,” Sefcovic was quoted as saying to reporters.
“It cannot be stressed enough that the (Ireland/Northern Ireland) Protocol is specifically designed to protect the Good Friday (Belfast) Agreement and the achievements of the peace process, including avoiding a hard border on the island of Ireland,” he added.
The Good Friday Agreement refers to a pair of deals signed on April 1998 that ended most of the violence of the Troubles, a political conflict in Northern Ireland that had been ongoing since the 1960s.
It served as a major development in the Northern Ireland peace process of the 1990s.
Sefcovic further said that the EU has given the UK until the end of the month to withdraw the Internal Market Bill and that it is “considering all legal options available” and will “not be shy” in using them if London fails to do so.
In a statement issued after the meeting, the UK’s Cabinet Office said: “The measures set out in the Internal Market Bill are designed to create a ‘safety net’ to ensure the communities of Northern Ireland are protected.
“The UK is clear that those measures would not be withdrawn.”
The Internal Market Bill proposed by the Johnson-led government would override that part of that agreement when it came to goods and would allow the UK to modify or re-interpret “state aid” rules on subsidies for firms in Northern Ireland, in the event of the two sides not agreeing a future trade deal.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said that the bill would provide belt-and-braces protection against extreme interpretations of the Brexit protocol, adding that the law-breaking powers will only be used in extreme circumstances.
Meanwhile, his government has agreed to table an amendment to the bill, giving MPs a vote before its powers are used.
The UK left the EU on January 31, having negotiated and signed the withdrawal agreement, which is now an international treaty, with the bloc, the BBC reported.
The two sides are now in the closing weeks of negotiations for a post-Brexit trade deal before the transition period ends on December 31.