THE European Union (EU) is demanding the UK ditches plans to change Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal “by the end of the month” or risk jeopardising trade talks.
The UK has published a bill to rewrite parts of the withdrawal agreement it signed in January.
The EU said this had “seriously damaged trust” and the EU would not be “shy” of using legal action against the UK.
But Cabinet Minister Michael Gove said the UK had made it “perfectly clear” it would not withdraw the bill.
The government said Parliament is sovereign and can pass laws, which breach the UK’s international treaty obligations.
EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier said “trust and confidence are and will be key”, after the latest round of UK-EU trade talks wrapped up in London yesterday.
His UK counterpart, David Frost, said “significant” differences remained over a free trade deal, but added discussions would continue in Brussels next week.
The source of the EU’s concern is Johnson’s proposed Internal Market Bill, which was published on Wednesday.
It addresses the Northern Ireland Protocol – an element of the withdrawal agreement designed to prevent a hard border returning to the island of Ireland.
The bill proposes no new checks on goods moving from Northern Ireland to Great Britain. It gives UK ministers powers to modify or “disapply” rules relating to the movement of goods that will come into force from January 1, if the UK and EU are unable to strike a trade deal.
The publication of the bill prompted emergency talks between Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove and Maros Šefèoviè, the European Commission Vice-President.