The British government is planning to come up with a bill that would overturn important parts of the EU accession agreement. The Financial Times writes this on the basis of three anonymous sources. The Johnson government would put a bomb under the current negotiations on a trade agreement, for which time is running out.
One of the newspaper’s sources says that the proposal, expected on Wednesday, could “knowingly” undermine agreements on the border with Ireland. It was made by Prime Minister Johnson last year about preventing a hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland after the brexit. With this proposal, the government would create room to partly overrule these agreements with its own rules.
Since the EU and the British government agreed on the conditions for the brexit in October last year, there has been a lot of negotiation. The British left at the beginning of this year and there is now a transition period in which the country still abides by the EU rules. That period ends at the end of this year and then there should be a new trade agreement, but the talks about it are very difficult.
Ireland: very unwise
Government sources say to the BBC that the bill will only come back if the negotiations with the EU come to a standstill. It would not be the intention to blow up the process, but a leading EU diplomat says anonymously to the British broadcaster that the proposal could well herald the end of the negotiations.
The Irish, for whom it is extremely sensitive to what the border with Northern Ireland looks like, are also unhappy with the planned bill. “This would be a very unwise way forward,” writes the Irish Minister of Foreign Affairs, Simon Coveney, on Twitter. The left-nationalist parties Sinn Féin and the SDLP are also fiercely critical.
The news about the planned bill comes shortly before a new round of negotiations on a trade agreement, at a time when Prime Minister Johnson is already stepping up the pressure with his own deadline: 15 October. According to his office, he will announce later today that he no longer expects a trade agreement with Brussels if he has not managed to come to an agreement before that date.
Without an agreement, the UK would have a trade relationship with the EU modelled on Australia. That country trades with the EU on the basis of the rules of the World Trade Organization (WTO). Johnson thinks that “a good result”, although critics fear the consequences of such a hard break with the EU without further agreements.