Tag Archives: UK

EU “firm” on respecting Brexit deal

Brussels 21.09.2020 According to an EU official the president of the EU Council Charles Michel met with top EU-UK negotiator Michel Barnier today to discuss a number of issues concerning the ongoing talks with the United Kingdom on the comprehensive trade agreement. The central focus has been the state of play of the negotiations, especially regarding the intention of the British Prime Minister Boris Johnson to re-write the Withdrawal Agreement unilaterally.

PM Johnson defends his plan to unilaterally rewrite Britain’s Brexit deal with the European Union as an insurance policy against the bloc’s unreasonable behaviour — even as his former attorney general joined the ranks of once-loyal lawmakers refusing the contentious move.
Regarding the situation the EU official said that the position of the bloc remains “firm and steady” towards the need to fully implement the Withdrawal Agreement. The EU will not be “intimidated nor impressed”, but still the breaking of the international agreement remains “extremely worrying”.
Meanwhile Michel Barnier is also to preparing the briefing for the heads of states and governments of the EU member-states at special European Council on September 24-25, reporting on analysis of the situation.
At present the EU is looking for an agreement on our future relation, but that requires substantial progress on key issues as level playing field and fisheries, the EU official has underlined.

#SoTEU: Leyen WARNS UK

The UK has no legal power to unilaterally set aside the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement signed by Boris Johnson, European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen has warned in her State of Union #SOTEU speech on September 16. In the traditional annual address of the president of the European Commission to the European Parliament. The president said both sides had agreed it was the only way to guarantee the Northern Ireland peace process. In her speech she insisted that the trust would be undermined if the UK started reverse its international Treaty obligations.
Ursula von der Leyen addressed issue of the Withdrawal Agreement, which was concluded as a direct result of Brexit.

“We need new beginnings with old friends – on both of sides of the Atlantic and on both sides of the Channel. The scenes in this very room when we held hands and said goodbye with Auld Lang Syne spoke a thousand words. They showed an affection for the British people that will never fade. But with every day that passes the chances of a timely agreement do start to fade. Negotiations are always difficult. We are used to that.
And the Commission has the best and most experienced negotiator, Michel Barnier, to navigate us through.
But talks have not progressed as we would have wished. And that leaves us very little time.

As ever, this House will be the first to know and will have the last say. And I can assure you we will continue to update you throughout, just as we did with the Withdrawal Agreement.That agreement took three years to negotiate and we worked relentlessly on it. Line by line, word by word. And together we succeeded. The result guarantees our citizens’ rights, financial interests, the integrity of the Single Market – and crucially the Good Friday Agreement.

“The EU and the UK jointly agreed it was the best and only way for ensuring peace on the island of Ireland.
And we will never backtrack on that. This agreement has been ratified by this House and the House of Commons.
It cannot be unilaterally changed, disregarded or dis-applied. This a matter of law, trust and good faith.
And that is not just me saying it – I remind you of the words of Margaret Thatcher: “Britain does not break Treaties. It would be bad for Britain, bad for relations with the rest of the world, and bad for any future Treaty on trade”. This was true then, and it is true today.
Trust is the foundation of any strong partnership” von der Leyen said.

Boris Johnson has urged MPs to support a bill which modifies the Brexit deal he signed with the EU in January. While the British Prime Minister said the Internal Markets Bill would “ensure the integrity of the UK internal market” and hand power to Scotland and Wales, and it would protect the Northern Ireland peace process. Critics insist that the move will damage the UK’s international standing after a minister admitted the plans break international law.

MEPs «disappointed» by Internal Market Bill

The UKCG and the EP political group leaders issued the following statement after meeting with Chief EU Negotiator Michel Barnier and Joint Committee Co-Chair Maroš Šefčovič, on Friday, September 11,202O.

“The European Parliament’s UK Coordination Group (UKCG) met today to assess the impact of the United Kingdom Internal Market Bill on the implementation of the Withdrawal Agreement with EU-UK Joint Committee Co-Chair Maroš Šefčovič and to evaluate the ongoing negotiations on the future EU-UK relationship with EU Chief Negotiator Michel Barnier.

“EP political group leaders and UKCG members are deeply concerned and disappointed that the UK Government published an Internal Market Bill that clearly represents a serious and unacceptable breach of international law. It violates the Withdrawal Agreement that was signed and ratified by the current UK Government and Parliament less than a year ago. The Internal Market Bill gravely damages the trust and credibility that the European Parliament has already said is “an essential element of any negotiation”, thus putting at risk the ongoing negotiations on the future relationship.

“The European Parliament supports EU Chief Negotiator Michel Barnier and Commission Vice-President Maroš Šefčovič in asking the UK government to withdraw these measures from the bill immediately; by the end of September, at the very latest. The European Parliament’s UK Coordination Group stresses that:

“the Withdrawal Agreement, including the Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland, has legally binding force regardless of whether or not the EU and the UK conclude any new treaty governing their future relationship; and

any issue regarding the implementation of its provisions should be addressed by the Joint Committee and in no case unilaterally by any party to the agreement.
The European Parliament expects the UK government to uphold the rule of law and demands nothing less than the full implementation of all provisions of the Withdrawal Agreement, including the Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland, which is essential to protect the Good Friday Agreement and peace and stability on the island of Ireland.

Should the UK authorities breach – or threaten to breach – the Withdrawal Agreement, through the United Kingdom Internal Market Bill in its current form or in any other way, the European Parliament will, under no circumstances, ratify any agreement between the EU and the UK.

Regarding the outcome of the eighth negotiating round, the European Parliament remains committed to an ambitious partnership with the UK. We are disappointed with the continued lack of reciprocal engagement from the UK side on fundamental EU principles and interests.

The European Parliament calls on the UK to work with the EU constructively and find compromises that are in the interests of our citizens and companies on both sides. Any potential deal should not only preserve our interests, but also respect the integrity of the European Union and its single market.

For any deal to take effect, democratic oversight institutions on both sides of the Channel must be able to carry out a meaningful assessment, as stated in the Withdrawal Agreement. The European Parliament recalls that its consent to any deal will only be granted after detailed scrutiny of the legal provisions. The European Parliament will not accept having its democratic oversight curbed by a last-minute deal beyond the end of October.”

Signed by EP group leaders:

Manfred WEBER (EPP, DE)

Iratxe GARCÍA PEREZ (S&D, ES)

Dacian CIOLOŞ (Renew, RO)

Philippe LAMBERTS (Greens/EFA, BE) co-chair

Ska KELLER (Greens/EFA, DE) co-chair

Raffaele FITTO (ECR, IT) co-chair

Ryszard LEGUTKO (ECR, PL) co-chair

Martin SCHIRDEWAN (GUE, DE) co-chair

Manon AUBRY (GUE, FR) co-chair

and by the UK Coordination Group:

David McALLISTER (EPP, DE), chair

Bernd LANGE (S&D, DE)

Nathalie LOISEAU (Renew, FR)

Christophe HANSEN (EPP, LU)

Kati PIRI (S&D, NL)

Kris PEETERS (EPP, BE)

Pedro SILVA PEREIRA (S&D, PT)

Morten PETERSEN (Renew, DK)

Gunnar BECK (ID, DE)

EU-UK Withdrawal Agreement in jeopardy

Following the publication by the UK government of the draft “United Kingdom Internal Market Bill” on 9 September 2020, Vice-President Maroš Šefčovič called for an extraordinary meeting of the EU-UK Joint Committee to request the UK government to elaborate on its intentions and to respond to the EU’s serious concerns. A meeting took place today in London between Vice-President Maroš Šefčovič and Michael Gove, Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster.

The Vice-President stated, in no uncertain terms, that the timely and full implementation of the Withdrawal Agreement, including the Protocol on Ireland / Northern Ireland – which Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his government agreed to, and which the UK Houses of Parliament ratified, less than a year ago – is a legal obligation. The European Union expects the letter and spirit of this Agreement to be fully respected. Violating the terms of the Withdrawal Agreement would break international law, undermine trust and put at risk the ongoing future relationship negotiations.

The Withdrawal Agreement entered into force on 1 February 2020 and has legal effects under international law. Since that point in time, neither the EU nor the UK can unilaterally change, clarify, amend, interpret, disregard or disapply the agreement. The Protocol on Ireland / Northern Ireland is an essential part of the Withdrawal Agreement. Its aim is to protect peace and stability on the island of Ireland and was the result of long, detailed and difficult negotiations between the EU and the UK.

Vice-President Maroš Šefčovič stated that if the Bill were to be adopted, it would constitute an extremely serious violation of the Withdrawal Agreement and of international law.

If adopted as proposed, the draft bill would be in clear breach of substantive provisions of the Protocol: Article 5 (3) & (4) and Article 10 on custom legislation and State aid, including amongst other things, the direct effect of the Withdrawal Agreement (Article 4). In addition, the UK government would be in violation of the good faith obligation under the Withdrawal Agreement (Article 5) as the draft Bill jeopardises the attainment of the objectives of the Agreement.

The EU does not accept the argument that the aim of the draft Bill is to protect the Good Friday (Belfast) Agreement. In fact, it is of the view that it does the opposite.

Vice-President Maroš Šefčovič called on the UK government to withdraw these measures from the draft Bill in the shortest time possible and in any case by the end of the month. He stated that by putting forward this Bill, the UK has seriously damaged trust between the EU and the UK. It is now up to the UK government to re-establish that trust.

He reminded the UK government that the Withdrawal Agreement contains a number of mechanisms and legal remedies to address violations of the legal obligations contained in the text – which the European Union will not be shy in using.

Sefcovic rushes to London for extraordinary meeting

«Following the announcement of the UK government, Marco Sefcovic will leave for London tomorrow to meet Michel Gove for an extraordinary meeting of the Joint Committee. The EU wishes the clarifications from the UK onthe full and timely implementation of the Withdrawal Agreement» reads the message of the chief spokesperson of the European Commissoin issued on his Twitter microblog.

Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove will hold emergency talks in London on September 10 with EU Commissioner Maros Sefcovic to discuss the contents of the bill, the BBC reported.
The European Commission had requested a meeting as soon as possible to clarify what the legislation means for the Brexit deal.

Meanwhile, the latest scheduled round of negotiations on securing a post-Brexit trade deal with the EU are also due to wrap up on September 10.

“Very concerned about announcements from the British government on its intentions to breach the Withdrawal Agreement. This would break international law and undermines trust” the president of the European Commisstion Tweeted.

Downing Street said the EU Withdrawal Agreement (WA)- repeatedly described as “oven ready” by Prime Minister Johnson during last year’s general election – contained “ambiguities” and lacked clarity in “key areas”.

EU-UK Channel Tunnel railroad future

The EU is working on legislation to ensure the safe and efficient operation of the Channel Tunnel railway connection between continental Europe and the United Kingdom (Channel Fixed Link) after the end of the Brexit transition period. Today, the Council’s Permanent Representatives Committee agreed on a negotiation mandate on two proposals aimed at maintaining a single safety authority, which would continue to apply the same set of rules over the whole infrastructure, including in its section under UK jurisdiction.

Currently, all matters concerning the operation of the Channel Fixed Link are supervised by an Intergovernmental Commission set up by the Treaty of Canterbury, signed between France and the UK in 1986.

Under the Council mandate, France will be empowered to negotiate an amendment to the Canterbury Treaty and the EU railway safety and interoperability rules will be amended so that the Intergovernmental Commission can be maintained as the safety authority competent for the application of EU law within the Channel Fixed Link.

The draft regulation amending the safety and interoperability provisions will be split into two draft regulations, in order to amend the Statute of the European Court of Justice in a manner that respects the Court’s prerogatives while avoiding a delay in the start of the negotiations.

A swift adoption of the draft decision and draft regulation will allow the prompt start of the talks between France and the UK. The adoption of the amendments to the Statute of the ECJ will be essential at the end of these negotiations, before France is authorised to sign and conclude the actual agreement.Th

The negotiations between the Council and the European Parliament on the two proposals are taking place as a matter of urgency.

EU-UK trade agreement on rocks

The EU officials have informed the UK goverment that the Primie Minister Boris Johnson has less than two weeks to save the agreement on post-Brexit trade and security, according to senior European Union sources. (Image above: archive).

The heads of the delegations Michel Barnier and David Frost will hold emergency talks next week in an effort to save the negotiations, according to The Times newspaper.

Mr Barnier, the EU’s chief negotiator, told the government last week that negotiations will not move forward until Mr Frost explains what Britain’s future policy will be on industrial subsidies, often mentioned as «level the playing field».

The Britsh negotiator responded to the EU top civil servant that the UK would not draw up such a key economic policy on a “timetable dictated to” by Brussels.

However the EU position towards key elements has not changed since January. «…Without a level playing field on environment, labour, taxation, and state aid, you cannot have the highest quality access to the world’s largest Single Market» the president of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen said while addressing London School of Economics with her speech on future of relations between the EU-UK relations.

Next to issues of trade the other questions of significance still remain unanswered, being locked as a part of this comprehensive agreement – the status of the EU citizens in the UK, the border controls, and the immigraiton.

UK foreign affairs cat Palmerston retires

Palmerston, the Foreign Office’s famous cat, has retired from mousing duties to “spend more time relaxing away from the limelight”.

In a “letter” dedicated to explantation of his decision at length, he sadi he has moved away from Whitehall and is now climbing trees rather than “overhearing all the foreign dignitaries’ conversations”.
The black-and-white cat, who has more than 105,000 Twitter followers, arrived from Battersea in 2016.

Palmerson has been known to clash with Larry, Number 10’s main mouse-catcher.
Their decidedly undiplomatic disputes – which have included several hissy fits and a stand-off in full view of the press in Downing Street – are not thought to have hastened his departure.

Named after the 19th-Century Foreign Secretary and Prime Minister Viscount Palmerston, Palmerston cat has often featured in photographs involving visiting officials. The news of his retirement hit the world’s headlines.

EU-UK negociations to continue in August

Negotiations between the United Kingdom and the European Union delegations will continue into October, the British government said, ending only days before a key meeting of EU leaders the bloc says is the deadline for the two sides to reach a comprehensive trade agreement.

The delegations will meet on the weeks of August 17, September 7 and September 28, the British government said in a statement, released on July 31.

The EU leaders are suggesting to reach a deal before the meeting to allow time for any trade accord to be implemented before the post-Brexit transition period expires by the end of the year on December 31.

A fifth round of talks between ended last week with both representatives were indicating they are still far from reaching an agreement. Without one, businesses face the imposition of tariffs and quotas following the WTO frame from January next year.

Barnier: EU willing ambitious UK partnership

“I am happy to meet you here in Europe House in London, at the end of this sixth negotiation round” the EU top negotiator of the EU-UK post-Brexit agreement said, while concluding latest round of talks in London.

“I would like to thank the EU Delegation, and our Ambassador João Vale de Almeida for welcoming us.

“Thank you also for the very useful work you do, representing the EU in the UK, together with the 27 EU Ambassadors, whom I met yesterday.

“This negotiation takes place in the middle of a very serious health, economic and social crisis across Europe and the world.

“This crisis gives us a duty to act responsibly and to work for an agreement limiting the negative consequences of Brexit. This is also why the agreement found this week in the European Council is so important. EU leaders, including Presidents Ursula von der Leyen and Charles Michel, showed responsibility and EU unity in agreeing on a budget for the next 7 years and on a very ambitious recovery plan. The European Parliament is debating this today.

…Let me begin with a few words on the context of this round. At the High-Level Meeting with Presidents Ursula von der Leyen, David Sassoli and Charles Michel in June, Prime Minister Boris Johnson told us that he wanted to reach a political agreement quickly. The Prime Minister also stated three red lines:

– no role for the European Court of Justice in the UK; – the right to determine future UK laws without constraints and an agreement on fisheries that shows that Brexit makes a real difference compared to the existing situation.
What Boris Johnson says and writes matters to the EU. Therefore, following the High-Level Meeting, we agreed to intensify our discussions. We have tried to understand how these three red lines can be squared with our commitment to a comprehensive new partnership – as set out in the Political Declaration, signed by Prime Minister Johnson on 17 October last year. Because of course, any international agreement implies constraints on both Parties.

We have continued to engage sincerely and constructively, in line with the mandate given to us by the Member States, with the support of the European Parliament.

However, over the past few weeks, the UK has not shown the same level of engagement and readiness to find solutions respecting the EU’s fundamental principles and interests.

This week, we have had useful discussions on some issues in goods and services.

But these negotiations are complex and require us to make progress across all areas. And we are still far away.

This week, discussions took place in a positive atmosphere, and I want to thank David Frost and his team, as well as the EU team, for their professional approach.

It has allowed us to make some progress:

We had useful discussions to narrow our divergences in the areas of social security coordination and Union programmes.
We made progress towards the objective of a comprehensive and single institutional framework, which must include robust enforcement mechanisms.
And we had good discussions on police and judicial cooperation, even if divergences remain.
On two important subjects, transport and energy, we had intense and useful discussions. However, the UK continued to request single market-like benefits.In addition, there is still no progress on two essential topics of our economic partnership.

First, there must be robust guarantees for a level playing field – including on State aid and standards – to ensure open and fair competition among our businesses, also over time. This is a core interest for all 27 Member States – and in my view also for the UK.
Second, we have to agree on a balanced, sustainable and long-term solution for fisheries, with the interests of all Member States concerned in mind, and not least the many men and women whose livelihoods depend on it on both sides.
These two points should not come as a surprise.

We have been saying the same thing since the beginning of the negotiations – not only this year, but consistently over the last three years. These points are mentioned explicitly in the Political Declaration – a rather precise text. They were part and parcel of our political engagement with Prime Minister Boris Johnson eight months ago.We are simply asking to translate this political engagement into a legal text. Nothing more.

Once again, what the Prime Minister writes and says matters to us. On the two points I mentioned – the level playing field and fisheries – this week again, the UK did not show a willingness to break the deadlock.

1/ On the level playing field, the UK still refuses to commit to maintaining high standards in a meaningful way.

On State aid, despite the clear wording of the Political Declaration, we have made no progress at all.

This is all the more worrying because we have no visibility on the UK’s intention on its future domestic subsidy control regime. We respect the UK political debate but the time for answers is quickly running out.

On important areas such as climate, environment, labour or social law, the UK refuses effective means to avoid undercutting by lowering standards.

The UK wants to regain its regulatory autonomy. We respect that.

But can the UK use this new regulatory autonomy to distort competition with us? We have to answer this question as we commit to a new economic partnership. We want to trade with the UK free from tariffs, free from quotas, but also free from unfair competition. And I am sure UK businesses want that too. The UK tells us it needs certainty for its businesses. But that cannot be at the price of long term uncertainty and disadvantage for our businesses in the EU.

We respect the UK government’s political choice and we are ready to work on solutions. But the EU cannot and will not accept to foot the bill for the UK’s political choices. And let me be very clear: A less ambitious agreement on goods and services will not lead the EU to drop its demands for a robust level playing field.

2/ On fisheries, the UK is effectively asking for a near total exclusion of EU fishing vessels from UK waters.

That is simply unacceptable.

The UK will be an independent coastal state, and the EU fully respects that. We also recognise that, under the future agreement, there may be change to the benefit of UK fishermen. But common stocks need to be managed jointly – according to international law and the principle of responsible and sustainable management of resources.

And any agreement cannot lead to the partial destruction of the EU fishing industry.I repeat: we have to agree on a balanced, sustainable and long-term solution for fisheries protecting the many men and women whose livelihoods depend on it.

The EU has always insisted that an economic partnership with the UK must include robust level playing field rules and an equitable agreement on fisheries.

This means that, by its current refusal to commit to conditions of open and fair competition and to a balanced agreement on fisheries, the UK makes a trade agreement at this point unlikely.

…Until the very last day of this negotiation and despite the current difficulties, the EU will remain engaged, constructive and respectful.

In any case, the UK has chosen to leave the Single Market and the Customs Union on 1 January 2021 – in little more than five months.

This will bring inevitable changes. On our side, we are getting ready.

We have published a Communication to help EU citizens, businesses and public administrations prepare for the end of the transition period.
EU leaders have agreed this week on a 5 billion euro special instrument – the “Brexit Adjustment Reserve” – to counter unforeseen and adverse consequences in Member States and sectors that are worst affected by Brexit.
In parallel, we have so far published over 70 sector specific notices: they explain in detail what actions must be taken in each sector to be ready for the end of the transition period. These notices are mandatory reading for stakeholders. They are available on our UK task force webpage.
But if we do not reach an agreement on our future partnership, there will be far more friction.

For instance, on trade in goods, in addition to new customs formalities, there will be tariffs and quotas.

This is the truth of Brexit. And I will continue to tell the truth.

If we want to avoid this additional friction, we must come to an agreement in October at the latest, so that our new treaty can enter into force on 1 January next year.

This means that we only have a few weeks left, and that we should not waste them.

Let me also remind you that we only have little time left to properly implement the Withdrawal Agreement.

Together with Vice-President Maroš Šefčovič, we continue to follow closely the implementation by the UK of its commitments under the Protocol on Ireland and Northern Ireland.

In this context, EU leaders have also agreed on Monday to allocate 120 million euro to the PEACE PLUS programme in support of peace and reconciliation and of the continuation of North-South cross border cooperation.

The recent Specialised Committee on the Protocol was a useful occasion to take stock of progress. I would like to thank Michael Gove and his team for their engagement.

But we remain concerned that the necessary measures will not be in place on 1 January.

Let me remind you that there is no grace period for the proper implementation of this Protocol.

We also remain vigilant, together with the 27 EU governments and the European Parliament, to guarantee the rights of British nationals covered by the Withdrawal Agreement. In the same way, we expect the rights of EU citizens here in the UK to be safeguarded.

…Today in London, I want to reaffirm the EU’s willingness to reach an ambitious partnership agreement in all areas including, even later on, in external security and defense. This is also the wish of Presidents Ursula von der Leyen and Charles Michel, the European Parliament and the 27 Heads of State or government.

I continue to believe that Prime Minister Boris Johnson and the UK government want to find an agreement with the EU.

Because it is in our common interest to cooperate and to address the many and serious challenges of today: climate change and biodiversity, health and security, research and innovation, democracy and fundamental rights, the fight against poverty and financial stability.

If I may borrow a famous line from Saint-Exupéry, negotiation is not just to look or to speak at one another. It is to look together in the same direction.

I will be back in London with my team next week as planned.
A new round is foreseen mid-August.
Work continues. Our resolve remains unchanged”.

David Frost the Sherpa and EU adviser to Prime Minister made a separate statement.

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