EU Brexit plot: UK fury as Brussels tries to block exports of food to Northern Ireland
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The desperate move came ahead of the eighth round of Brexit trade talks in London this week. In a bid to force Britain to move on their read lines, Michel Barnier and his EU negotiating team appeared to hint they could crack down on exports if talks did not go their way. EU officials have suggested Britain will not be added to its list of ‘Third Country’ states – a revelation which sparked chaos for exports from England, Scotland or Wales to Northern Ireland.
This comes despite assumptions the UK would be included on the list, which would have allowed a smooth movement of goods in areas subject to EU rules – under which Northern Ireland could fall due to the terms of the withdrawal agreement.
The agreement said “products of animal origin” would be subjected to EU scrutiny when passing from the UK mainland to Northern Ireland.
It has prompted a furious response from Boris Johnson, who has threatened to rip up parts of the deal or walk away from talks if no agreement is reached by October 15.
The EU, however, has refused to budge.
A Brussels source told The Sun: “We’re not going to give certain elements in the Tory party the satisfaction of us being the ones to walk away.”
The Internal Market Bill, which will be tabled today, will ensure goods from Northern Ireland continue have access to the UK market, while making clear EU state aid rules, which will continue to apply in Northern Ireland, will not apply in the rest of the UK.
An amendment to the Finance Bill will also give ministers the power to designate which goods going from Great Britain to Northern Ireland are considered “at risk” of entering the EU single market and at risk of EU tariffs.
In a statement, the government hailed its Internal Market Bill as a way of empowering Britain and ending the reign of “unelected EU bodies”.
Cabinet Minister Michael Gove said: “This bill will also give the UK government new spending powers to drive our economic recovery from COVID-19 and support businesses and communities right across the UK.”
“No longer will unelected EU bodies be spending our money on our behalf. These new spending powers will mean that these decisions will now be made in the UK, focus on UK priorities and be accountable to the UK parliament and people of the UK.”
But French MEP Nathalie Loiseau has said she was “flabbergasted” by the Government’s admission it could break international law over Mr Johnson’s Brexit deal.
She told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “I’m flabbergasted by what I heard yesterday. The ink of the Withdrawal Agreement is still wet.
“We’re negotiating the future relationship and we hear that the British Government seems not to believe anymore in a rules-based order.
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“This is of course a huge concern.
“And it creates questions and scepticism about how much you can trust your partner in negotiation for the future.
“You don’t break international commitments in specific and limited manners. Either you break them or you abide by them.
“Either you are legal or you are illegal.”
Matt Hancock said breaking international law by overriding the Withdrawal Agreement is necessary to preserve peace in Northern Ireland if a trade deal with the EU is not brokered.
The Health Secretary told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “The decision we’ve made is to put the peace process first, first and foremost as our absolute top international obligation.
“We are also absolutely clear about if we don’t manage to achieve that (a deal), and I really hope that the Europeans will make the progress necessary in order to deliver it – it’s straightforward and available in my view – if not we absolutely have to choose and to govern is to choose and I choose peace in Northern Ireland.”
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