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EU Demands UK Drop Changes to Withdrawal Agreement as British Parl't Passes Internal Market Bill

Sputnik News

15:02 GMT 22.09.2020

As European Union ministers met in Brussels on Monday ahead of a summit of heads of government later this week, the UK Parliament pressed on with draft legislation to override the Northern Ireland Protocol of the EU Withdrawal Agreement.

On Tuesday, European Union leaders warned the UK that changes to the Brexit agreement could scupper trade talks. EU Commission vice-president Maros Sefcovic said that Brussels would not accept any changes to the agreement, a position backed by French and German Europe ministers.

“The EU believes in calm, constructive cooperation through the channels created through the Withdrawal Agreement," Sefcovic said before a meeting of ministers. “We will not be renegotiating, but we are dedicated to its full and timely implementation – nothing more, nothing less.”

The UK Parliament looks set to pass the Internal Market Bill, which will alter last year's EU Withdrawal Agreement's key protocol on Northern Ireland, after Tory Prime Minister Boris Johnson appeased a small rebellion by backbench MPs.

With UK-EU trade talks deadlocked over fishing access and state aid rules and the October 15 deadline for a Brexit deal looming, the new legislation would override the existing agreement that Northern Ireland will effectively stay in the EU common market.

It seeks to prevent the EU imposing trade tariffs between the Six Counties and the rest of the UK, but critics fear that could jeopardise the 1998 Good Friday Agreement if the EU imposes a hard border between the Republic of Ireland and the north.

The European Council, the assembled heads of government of the 27 EU member states, will meet in Brussels on Thursday and Friday.

French European affairs minister Clement Beaune said Europe should wait and see what Westminster decides, but hinted the EU would still have the "leverage" of demanding compliance with the Withdrawal Agreement as part of a trade deal.

"I do not want to give a signal of pressure," he said. "But on the other hand, it is clear that we cannot put in place an agreement on the future relationship if the Withdrawal Agreement has been called into question."

Beaune stressed that "there Europe has some leverage. If at the end of the year, if we have an agreement on the future relationship and we are ready to ratify it at European and national levels, but the Withdrawal Agreement has been called into question… well, obviously, we cannot go forward."

Beaune's German counterpart Michael Roth said the Internal Market Bill was extremely worrisome for EU member states.

“The so-called Internal Market Bill is extremely worries [sic] us because it violates the guiding principles of the Withdrawal Agreement, and that's totally unacceptable for us," Roth said.

The German urged the council of ministers to send a strong message of support to EU Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier, whose insistence that the UK continue to follow EU regulations and allow foreign fisherman to take the lion's share of fish from British waters post-Brexit has bogged down trade talks.

"But please, dear friends in London, stop the games," Roth urged. "Time is running out what we really need is a fair basis for further negotiations and we are ready for that."

© Sputnik



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