EU begins infringement process against UK over agreement breach

The European Commission has officially begun ‘infringement’ proceedings against the UK over the latter’s proposed new law that would breach the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement.

The commission sent a letter of formal notice to the UK government today (Thursday, October 1) for breaching obligations under the agreement. The UK has one month to reply to the letter.

In a statement, the commission explained that Article 5 of the withdrawal agreement states that the EU and the UK must “take all appropriate measures to ensure the fulfilment of the obligations arising from the withdrawal agreement”.

The agreement also states that both parties “must refrain from any measures which could jeopardise the attainment of those objectives”.

On September 9, the UK tabled a bill in its parliament that the commission argued 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”.

According to the commission, the UK has “breached its obligations to act in good faith, as set out in Article 5 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 the UK doesn’t respond at all), then the next step would be for the EU to issue a ‘reasoned opinion’ on the matter.

Commenting on the situation, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyne said: “As you know, we had invited our British friends to remove the problematic parts of their draft Internal Market Bill by the end of September.

This draft bill is – by its very nature – a breach of the obligation of good faith laid down in the withdrawal agreement. Moreover, if adopted as is, it will be in full contradiction to the protocol on Ireland / Northern Ireland.

“The deadline lapsed yesterday. The problematic provisions have not been removed. Therefore, this morning, the commission has decided to send a letter of formal notice to the UK government. This is the first step in an infringement procedure. The letter invites the UK government to send its observations within a month,” President von der Leyen added.

She concluded: “The commission will continue to work hard towards a full and timely implementation of the withdrawal agreement. We stand by our commitments.”