On his way into today’s Eurogroup meeting, Irish Finance Minister and Eurogroup President Paschal Donohoe thanked fellow finance ministers for their solidarity and support following the UK’s proposal to override commitments made in the EU-UK Withdrawal Agreement.
Donohoe said that as an Irish citizen and as a European the two major events that had shaped his public life were Ireland’s membership of the European Union and the Good Friday Agreement (GFA). He went on to say:
“The withdrawal agreement was an agreement negotiated by the European Union that brought (the EU membership and the GFA commitments) together. An agreement that was reached after years of intense effort on behalf of the European Union, dealing with the government of the United Kingdom. The European Union is a project that is based on the rule of law. It’s based on respect. It’s based on honoring agreements of the past and building on them in the future. As the United Kingdom looks, to what kind of future trading relationship it wants with the European Union, a prerequisite is honoring agreements that are already in place.”
Following an extraordinary meeting of the EU-UK Joint Committee yesterday (10 September) on the draft of the United Kingdom’s Internal Market Bill, Vice-President Maroš Šefčovič restated that the UK must fully implement 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 reminded the UK that 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, neither the EU nor the UK can unilaterally change, clarify, amend, interpret, disregard, or disapply the agreement.
Vice-President Maroš Šefčovič stated: “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.”
The UK has been given to the end of the month to withdraw the draft legislation. The British government has already tabled the bill for debate and adoption before the end of the month. Šefčovič stated that the EU would not be shy of using all mechanisms and legal remedies should the UK violate its legal obligations.