Yesterday (6 September) the Financial Times wrote an article claiming that the UK is prepared to use domestic legislation to override some parts of the withdrawal agreement. Specifically, the UK wants to modify parts of the protocol on the Ireland/Northern Ireland border related to goods and state aid. The article caused consternation among European diplomats and MEPs.
Manfred Weber MEP, chairman of the European’s People Party tweeted: “Prime Minister, there is no such thing as a good outcome in Brexit. Instead of taking Northern Ireland hostage again, it would be better that you keep your word and stand by the Withdrawal agreement. Can we trust you keep your word?”
Irish foreign minister and former Deputy Prime Minister (Tanaiste), Simon Coveney wrote: “This would be a very unwise way to proceed.”
President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, was unambiguous: “I trust the British government to implement the Withdrawal Agreement, an obligation under international law & prerequisite for any future partnership. Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland is essential to protect peace and stability on the island & integrity of the single market.”
EU Reporter asked the European Commission’s spokesperson on the EU’s future relationship, Daniel Ferrie, to comment on the report. Ferrie said that from the very beginning of the negotiations, the European Union had been engaged constructively and in good faith with the United Kingdom.
He underlined the commitment of the EU to do everything in its power to reach an agreement, which would also be compatible with the EU’s long term economic and political interests, in particular by protecting open and fair competition, the ‘level playing field’ provisions, that the Prime Minister agreed to in the political declaration on the future relationship.
Given Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s comments over the weekend on the possibility of not reaching an agreement, the EU pointed out that while it was determined to reach an agreement with the UK, the EU will be ready in the event of a no-deal scenario to trade with UK on WTO terms as of the first of January 2021.