Skip to main content
The Globe and Mail
Support Quality Journalism.
The Globe and Mail
First Access to Latest
Investment News
Collection of curated
e-books and guides
Inform your decisions via
Globe Investor Tools
Just$1.99
per week
for first 24 weeks

Enjoy unlimited digital access
Enjoy Unlimited Digital Access
Get full access to globeandmail.com
Just $1.99per week for the first 24weeks
Just $1.99per week for the first 24weeks
var select={root:".js-sub-pencil",control:".js-sub-pencil-control",open:"o-sub-pencil--open",closed:"o-sub-pencil--closed"},dom={},allowExpand=!0;function pencilInit(o){var e=arguments.length>1&&void 0!==arguments[1]&&arguments[1];select.root=o,dom.root=document.querySelector(select.root),dom.root&&(dom.control=document.querySelector(select.control),dom.control.addEventListener("click",onToggleClicked),setPanelState(e),window.addEventListener("scroll",onWindowScroll),dom.root.removeAttribute("hidden"))}function isPanelOpen(){return dom.root.classList.contains(select.open)}function setPanelState(o){dom.root.classList[o?"add":"remove"](select.open),dom.root.classList[o?"remove":"add"](select.closed),dom.control.setAttribute("aria-expanded",o)}function onToggleClicked(){var l=!isPanelOpen();setPanelState(l)}function onWindowScroll(){window.requestAnimationFrame(function() {var l=isPanelOpen(),n=0===(document.body.scrollTop||document.documentElement.scrollTop);n||l||!allowExpand?n&&l&&(allowExpand=!0,setPanelState(!1)):(allowExpand=!1,setPanelState(!0))});}pencilInit(".js-sub-pencil",!1); // via darwin-bg var slideIndex = 0; carousel(); function carousel() { var i; var x = document.getElementsByClassName("subs_valueprop"); for (i = 0; i < x.length; i++) { x[i].style.display = "none"; } slideIndex++; if (slideIndex> x.length) { slideIndex = 1; } x[slideIndex - 1].style.display = "block"; setTimeout(carousel, 2500); } //

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen speaks during a news conference at EU headquarters, in Brussels, on Oct. 1, 2020.

Johanna Geron/The Associated Press

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 move 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.”

Story continues below advertisement

“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.

Ms. 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 commitment.”

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.

Helena Kennedy, an opposition Labour Party member of the House of Lords, said the bill was “a flagrant breach of international law,” and Parliament’s upper chamber would try to stop it.

Story continues below advertisement

“People come to the courts in the United Kingdom because our judiciary is respected. Our respect for the law is one of our badges – a badge of honour,” she told the BBC. “Well it’s gone down.”

The British government stood its ground in an immediate reaction to the EU move, 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 500-kilometre 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 Party.

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.

Story continues below advertisement

Hundreds of thousands of jobs are at stake on both sides, especially in nations close to Britain like France, Belgium and the Netherlands.

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte sought to play down the significance of the European Commission’s action, and instead focus on seeking a trade deal.

“Don’t look for too much behind this,” Mr. Rutte said about the start of legal action. “It is normal procedure, more administrative than political.”

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 Mr. 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.

Story continues below advertisement

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.

Our Morning Update and Evening Update newsletters are written by Globe editors, giving you a concise summary of the day’s most important headlines. Sign up today.

Your Globe

Build your personal news feed

  1. Follow topics and authors relevant to your reading interests.
  2. Check your Following feed daily, and never miss an article. Access your Following feed from your account menu at the top right corner of every page.

Follow topics related to this article:

View more suggestions in Following Read more about following topics and authors
Report an error
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

If you do not see your comment posted immediately, it is being reviewed by the moderation team and may appear shortly, generally within an hour.

We aim to have all comments reviewed in a timely manner.

Comments that violate our community guidelines will not be posted.

UPDATED: Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies