Brussels fury: EU plans to RAMP UP Brexit demands after Boris’s threats sparks panic
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Brussels sources said the bloc is now closely examining its “governance” position to ensure any future relationship pact with the UK is unbreakable. Michel Barnier is said to be assessing a much stricter framework to enforce the terms of any agreement struck before the end of the year. The move comes after the Prime Minister published legislation that would hand ministers the power to ignore EU customs checks and state aid rules in Northern Ireland.
Despite the provocation from London, European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen still believes a deal is possible.
EU diplomats have hinted the bloc could even accept less stringent level-playing field regulations if a stronger enforcement measure is found.
One diplomatic source said: “If we want to make progress, we might need less content on a level-playing field but then you absolutely need a rocksolid governance system.
“I think the developments of the last week have actually shown its importance, and there is a broad feeling among member states that it is even more important.”
The final governance structure will likely hold a series of mini deals, on trade in goods, security and fisheries, in one framework.
The bloc wants a cross-cutting mechanism to allow infringements to be punishable in different areas of the treaty from where any breach may happen.
Mrs von der Leyen today said the bloc’s legal dispute with Britain over a breach of the divorce deal will stay separate from the trade negotiations.
She said: “I am still convinced it can be done.”
European sources have welcomed suggestions by Downing Street that its Internal Market Bill could be watered down to quash a Tory rebellion over plans to break international law.
One EU diplomat said: “We should not overreact.
“We will continue negotiations because there are two separate tracks: one is the one which the UK has decided to violate, and the other is the future relationship.”
No 10 published a policy paper suggesting ministers would first exhaust dispute mechanisms within the Withdrawal Agreement before opting to overrule the treaty.
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A senior European diplomatic source said: “It may convince the Commons, but not the EU.
“We’re watching closely to see what the final legal text contains, as opposed to a press release.”
An EU official added: “It is still a violation of the Withdrawal Agreement but is an interesting development all the same.”
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But Brussels is confident as breakthroughs are made in the talks over the future relationship, the impact of the controversial legislation will become less apparent.
An EU diplomat said: “It’s quite striking that in the middle of an unprecedented health and economic crisis, the UK Government has got everyone talking about VAT and customs declarations in the Northern Ireland Protocol.
“If the negotiations on the future arrangements can be concluded fruitfully the issues with the Protocol will also collapse into place.”
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