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01 October 2020
European Commission takes legal action over UK Internal Market Bill

European Commission Audiovisual

European Commission takes legal action over UK Internal Market Bill

The European Commission has announced it is taking legal action against the UK over the UK Government’s Internal Market Bill. 

The president of the Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, said a letter of formal notice had been sent to the UK on Thursday morning. 

She said that the bill is a breach of good faith and is in contradiction of previous agreements made on Northern Ireland. 

Constitution secretary Michael Russell said the move was “inevitable” after “blatant bullying” tactics by the UK.

The controversial bill sets out how goods and standards will be regulated after the UK leaves the EU Single Market.

But sections of it allow the UK to override part of the Brexit agreement made with the EU relating to Northern Ireland and trade, which the government has admitted does break international law.

The Scottish Government has called the bill a “power grab” and recommended MSPs not to give it legislative consent.

Despite this, the bill passed in the House of Commons on Tuesday night. 

Von der Leyen made the announcement in a brief press conference on Thursday.

She 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 of 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. 

“And besides this, the Commission will continue to work hard towards a full and timely implementation of the withdrawal agreement. We stand by our commitments.”

Constitution secretary Michael Russell said: “It was inevitable that the EU would move, in a careful and proportionate way, to indicate to the UK that legality and the observations of treaties was an essential part of international relations.   

“They simply cannot afford to ignore such blatant bullying by the UK.  

“I have constantly said that the UK is underestimating the damage that the Internal Market Bill is doing and will do to both international and intra-UK relations and this latest step by the EU simply confirms that fact.   

“It is time for even the arrogant Johnson to listen and learn from his mistakes.”

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