EU's Barnier still hopes trade deal with Britain possible, sources say

Marco Green
September 30, 2020

The legislation, known as the Internal Market Bill, will break the Northern Ireland Protocol of the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement agreed previous year which seeks to avoid a hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland.

However, Raab's attempts to calm fears across the Atlantic appeared to fail, as Biden warned the United Kingdom government that it risked jeopardizing any prospect of a post-Brexit free-trade agreement with the US.

"We can't allow the Good Friday Agreement that brought peace to Northern Ireland to become a casualty of Brexit", Biden said in a tweet.

The WA keeps Northern Ireland under the EU's thumb with respect to regulations and state aid rules int the event of the United Kingdom and European Union not agreeing a trade deal by the end of 2020 - a concession by the British in the name of maintaining the open border.

His comments came as the prime minister saw the resignation of a senior law officer, Lord Keen, as he was forced into a compromise over controversial plans to break global law by overriding the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement (WA).

Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic speaker of the House of Representatives, did not mince words. The sides have been engaged in talks to secure a trade deal but have both pointed to the lack of progress in the negotiations.

A second diplomat, asked what Mr Barnier said and whether there was still a chance for a new agreement with the United Kingdom, said: "The hope is still there".

It is feared than "abusive" and "extreme" interpretations of this provision by the European Union which would allow it to effectively blockade food travelling from one part of the United Kingdom to another and extend the EU's control over state aid from Northern Ireland to businesses in Great Britain proper if they do business in the province is being used as leverage in the negotiations, necessitating the legislation for new powers to prevent this.

She said in a statement following her meeting with the foreign secretary that she "welcomed his assurances but reiterated the same message that we delivered to the leaders of the UK in London a year ago: if the UK violates its global agreements and Brexit undermines the Good Friday accord, there will be absolutely no chance of a US-UK trade agreement passing the Congress".

The Internal Market Bill is meant to protect the integrity of the UK and should be supported by all parties in the parliament, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson told lawmakers on Wednesday. Around 30 Tory rebels were thought to be preparing to vote for an amendment which would have required a vote in the House of Commons before the provisions in the bill relating to Northern Ireland could come into force. The British prime minister has agreed to put the changes to the North's Brexit status on the backburner -for use only in extremis and with special parliamentary approval.

He tweeted: "We are committed to the faithful implementation of the Protocol".

The deal has not dispelled all domestic criticism of Johnson's plan either, and his top Scottish law officer resigned on Wednesday in opposition.

It comes after advocate general for Scotland Lord Keen of Elie QC tendered his resignation, saying he "considered it my duty".

But despite the Government's compromise, Brussels said on Thursday that its position had not changed and it still wanted the clauses to be withdrawn from the legislation.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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