Tag Archives: Withdrawal Agreement

EU-UK first lawsuit in view

Brussels 1.10.2020 Today the European Commission has sent to the United Kingdom a letter of formal notice for breaching its obligations under the Withdrawal Agreement. This marks the beginning of a formal infringement process against the United Kingdom. It has one month to reply to today’s letter.

Article 5 of the Withdrawal Agreement states that the European Union and the United Kingdom must take all appropriate measures to ensure the fulfilment of the obligations arising from the Withdrawal Agreement, and that they must refrain from any measures which could jeopardise the attainment of those objectives. Both parties are bound by the obligation to cooperate in good faith in carrying out the tasks stemming from the Withdrawal Agreement.

On 9 September 2020, the UK government tabled a Bill (‘United Kingdom Internal Market Bill’) that, if adopted, would flagrantly violate the Protocol on Ireland / Northern Ireland, as it would allow the UK authorities to disregard the legal effect of the Protocol’s substantive provisions under the Withdrawal Agreement. Representatives of the UK government have acknowledged this violation, stating that its purpose was to allow it to depart in a permanent way from the obligations stemming from the Protocol. The UK government has failed to withdraw the contentious parts of the Bill, despite requests by the European Union.

By doing so, the UK has breached its obligation to act in good faith, as set out in Article 5 of the Withdrawal Agreement. Furthermore, it has launched a process, which – if the Bill is adopted – would impede the implementation of the Withdrawal Agreement. As a result, the Commission has launched infringement proceedings today in line with the provisions of the Withdrawal Agreement.

The UK has until the end of this month to submit its observations to the letter of formal notice. After examining these observations, or if no observations have been submitted, the Commission may, if appropriate, decide to issue a Reasoned Opinion.

The Withdrawal Agreement was ratified by both the EU and the UK. It entered into force on 1 February 2020 and has legal effects under international law.

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. The meeting took place in London on 10 September between Michael Gove, Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, and Vice-President Maroš Šefčovič.

At the meeting, 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. He 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 of September.

At the third ordinary meeting of the Joint Committee on 28 September 2020, Vice-President Maroš Šefčovič again called on the UK government to withdraw the contentious measures from the bill. The UK government on this occasion confirmed its intention to go ahead with the draft legislation.

The Withdrawal Agreement provides that during the transition period, the Court of Justice of the European Union has jurisdiction and the Commission has the powers conferred upon it by Union law in relation to the United Kingdom, also as regards the interpretation and application of that Agreement.

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.

EU adapts to post-Brexit

The European Commission has adopted a Communication to help national authorities, businesses and citizens prepare for the inevitable changes that will arise at the end of the transition period. Changes will occur to cross-border exchanges between the EU and the UK as of 1 January 2021– irrespective of whether an agreement on a future partnership has been concluded or not.

The British people decided in a democratic election to leave the European Union and its benefits. This means that no matter how hard we now work towards a close partnership agreement, our relationship will inevitably change. My top priority is to ensure that EU citizens and businesses are as well prepared as possible for 1 January 2021” Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said.

Public administrations, businesses, citizens and stakeholders will be affected by the UK’s decision to leave the EU. Following the UK Government’s decision not to extend the transition period, we now know that these changes will take place on 1 January 2021 – deal or no deal. We are helping them to prepare as best as they can” the European Commission’s Chief Negotiator, Michel Barnier, said.

The Communication “Getting ready for changes” sets out a sector-by-sector overview of the main areas where there will be changes regardless of the outcome of the ongoing EU-UK negotiations, and sets out measures that national authorities, businesses and citizens should take in order to be ready for these changes. It in no way seeks to prejudge the outcome of negotiations. As such, it does not examine the possible implications of a failure to reach an agreement, nor does it consider the need for contingency measures.

Its aim is to ensure that all public administrations and stakeholders are ready and well prepared for the unavoidable disruptions caused by the UK’s decision to leave the EU and to end the transition period this year. These measures complement actions taken at national level.

In parallel, the European Commission is reviewing and, where necessary, updating all 102 stakeholder notices, published at the time of the withdrawal negotiations – many of which continue to be relevant for the end of the transition period. The list of more than 50 updated notices is in annex to the Communication and all are available on the Commission’s dedicated webpage.

The European Commission will work closely with national authorities, businesses and other stakeholders over the coming months to help them prepare for the far-reaching changes that will occur at the end of the year, irrespective of whether an agreement is found.

The Withdrawal Agreement concluded between the EU and the UK secured an orderly departure of the United Kingdom, providing legal certainty in important areas including citizens’ rights, the financial settlement and the avoidance of a hard border on the island of Ireland.

The Withdrawal Agreement provided for a transition period, which ensures that EU law continues to apply to the UK from 1 February 2020 to 31 December 2020. At the end of the transition period, the UK leaves the Single Market and the Customs Union, thereby putting an end to the free movement of people, goods and services. The United Kingdom will also no longer participate in the EU’s VAT and excise duty area, nor in EU policies and programmes, and will stop benefitting from the EU’s international agreements. Changes will affect both sides and happen irrespective of whether or not an agreement on a future partnership between the EU and the United Kingdom is reached.

The EU and the UK are currently negotiating an agreement on a new future partnership, but even if such an agreement is concluded, the future relationship between the EU and the UK will be very different from what it is currently, including the end of frictionless trade.

There will inevitably be barriers to trade in goods and services and to cross-border mobility and exchanges. Public administrations, businesses, citizens and stakeholders on both sides will be affected and must therefore prepare.

The United Kingdom left the European Union on 31 January 2020.

EU signs Brexit bill

“Charles Michel and I have just signed the Agreement on the Withdrawal of the UK from the EU, opening the way for its ratification by the European Parliament” the president of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen informed via her Twitter micro blog.

“Things will inevitably change but our friendship will remain. We start a new chapter as partners and allies” wrote EU Council president Charles Michel.

“Looking forward to writing this new page together” he added in French.

After parliamentary ratification in the UK was concluded earlier, with Royal Assent granted for the European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill, Constitutional Affairs Committee MEPs voted in favour of a positive recommendation regarding the EU-UK Withdrawal Agreement, with 23 votes for, three against and no abstentions.
The vote took place after a statement by Committee Chair Antonio Tajani (EPP, IT) and a discussion between the Parliament’s Brexit coordinator Guy Verhofstadt (Renew Europe, BE) and political group coordinators.

The debate in the Committee focussed on Parliament’s contribution to protecting citizens’ rights in the context of Brexit (with the majority of speakers during the first round commending the EU’s negotiating team), as well as the steps that should be taken by the UK and EU27 governments to continue protecting these rights during the transition period and beyond. The discussion also addressed the overall impact of Brexit and the future relationship between the EU and the UK, which is going to be the objective of the future negotiations.

Queen signs Brexit Bill

Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal has become law after it received royal assent from the Queen Elizabeth II (image archive), having cleared all its stages in Westminster.

Tory MPs cheered the deputy speaker Nigel Evans while he confirmed in the House of Commons on January 23 that there was now a European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Act.

Prime Minister Johnson finally succeeded in endorsing his bill through the Commons and the Lords after several failed attempts by his predecessor Theresa May.

MPs approved Brexit bill

Westminster approved the latest Brexit bill, but rejected five amendments. They included provisions to reunite child refugees with families already in the UK, and guaranteed residence for millions of EU citizens.

Members of Parliament gave their final backing to the Brexit bill after removing several amendments made by the House of Lords, including a provision to reunite unaccompanied refugee children whose families are already living in the UK.

The House of Commons effectively stripped the Withdrawal Agreement Bill — which dictates the terms of the UK’s exit from the EU — of five amendments.
Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay said the reunification of refugee children in EU member states with family members already in the UK was “ultimately a matter which must be negotiated with the EU, and the government is committed to seeking the best possible outcome in those negotiations.”

Another amendment included registering the 3.6 million EU citizens living in the UK, which would have provided documents to ensure continuity of their residence in the country. However, that amendment was removed from the bill.

Brexit three months extension

The European Union leaders have agreed to extend the UK departure date until 31 January 2020, indirectly acknowledging that the British government will not meet the foreseen deadline on October 31.

https://twitter.com/eucopresident/status/1188748108764721152?s=21

The president of the EU Council Donald Tusk assessed the delay as “flextension“, underlining that there is no need to keep membership in the block until the date, but Britons could leave anytime before the date as soon as the Withdrawal Agreement was approved by Westminster. 

https://twitter.com/nickeardleybbc/status/1188868020569038848?s=21

The new Brexit delay has been announced amid MPs intend to vote on proposals by Prime Minister Boris Johnson for an early general election on December 12. 

The Scottish National Party (SNP)  and Liberal Democrat’s (Lib/Dem) have also proposed an election a few days earlier – on December 9. 

The UK was due to leave the EU on October 31, but PM Johnson was required to request an extension after Westminster failed to agree a Withdrawal Agreement. 

https://twitter.com/nickeardleybbc/status/1188868020569038848?s=21

Boris Johnson had repeatedly stated the UK would leave on 31 October meeting the deadline regardless the Withdrawal Agreement, but the law – known as the Benn Act – imposes to accept the EU’s extension proposal in absence of the Brexit deal.

https://twitter.com/bbcpolitics/status/1188868668182020096?s=21

The Downing Street source said to the BBC that the government would introduce a bill “almost identical” to the Lib Dem/SNP option on October 29 if Labour voted their proposal down later, and “we will have a pre-Christmas election anyway”.

One more Brexit extension

Germany is willing to accept the UK short-term extension for its departure from the European Union if it will be for the right political reason, Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said in an interview to N-TV channel.

“We need to know: What will be the reason for this?” Maas said. “If it will be about pushing back the date by two or three weeks to allow lawmakers in London to implement the ratification of the exit bill in a reasonable way, I think this will rather not be a problem” the Minister added.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson  said it was up to the EU to decide whether it wanted to delay Brexit and for how long, after a defeat in Westminster made ratification of his Withdrawal Agreement (WA) by the October 31 deadline almost impossible.

British MEP and leader of Brexit party Nigel Farage (pictured) said six month extension would be right time top organise general elections and move on with Brexit.

Barnier waits for UK proposals

European Union top Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier (pictured) said that the UK has yet to provide “legal and operational” proposals that could lead out of Brexit deadlock.

“We are still ready to work on any new legal and operational proposal from the UK,” Barnier said. He aslo added Tweet to his micro blog, underlining that there is a need of legally operative solution in the Withdrawal Agreement  to address the problems created by Brexit on island of Ireland.  He aslo added that the EU27 are firmly united. Barnier  underlined importance of avoiding hard border, protection of Good Friday Agreement, all-island economy & integrity of Single Market.

Irish Minister for Foreign Affairs Tanaiste Simon Coveney,  said “significant gaps” remain between the two sides.

However, he added that Barnier and his team are “available 24/7 to negotiate to try and get a deal done”.

Image: Berlaymont building, European Commission

Europarl Sassoli invited to London

European Parliament President David Sassoli today received a phone call from UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson. It was the first conversation between the two leaders.

Prime Minister Johnson invited president Sassoli to meet in person in London and stressed the importance of the European Parliament in the Brexit process. He expressed his wish to find a positive agreement on the United Kingdom departure from the European Union. President Sassoli responded that this was also the wish of the bloc of EU27.

The call followed the approval of a new Brexit resolution which reaffirmed the European Parliament’s support for an orderly and managed Brexit. President Sassoli stressed in the call that Parliament’s priorities remain guaranteeing citizens’ rights and protecting the peace process in Northern Ireland. He also reiterated that any agreement will need to be approved by both the UK and European Parliament, so robust debate and parliamentary scrutiny is essential. The European institutions are ready to discuss any written proposal from the UK government to unblock the current impasse.

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