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Statement of the UK Coordination Group and the leaders of the political groups of the #EuropeanParliament

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The UKCG and the European Parliament political group leaders issued the following statement after meeting with Chief EU Negotiator Michel Barnier (pictured, centre) and Joint Committee Co-Chair Maroš Šefčovič, today (11 September).

The European Parliament’s UK Coordination Group (UKCG) met today to assess the impact of the United Kingdom Internal Market Bill on the implementation of the Withdrawal Agreement with EU-UK Joint Committee Co-Chair Maroš Šefčovič and to evaluate the ongoing negotiations on the future EU-UK relationship with EU Chief Negotiator Michel Barnier.

European Parliament political group leaders and UKCG members are deeply concerned and disappointed that the UK Government published an Internal Market Bill that clearly represents a serious and unacceptable breach of international law. It violates the Withdrawal Agreement that was signed and ratified by the current UK Government and Parliament less than a year ago. The Internal Market Bill gravely damages the trust and credibility that the European Parliament has already said is “an essential element of any negotiation”, thus putting at risk the ongoing negotiations on the future relationship.

The European Parliament supports EU Chief Negotiator Michel Barnier and Commission Vice-President Maroš Šefčovič in asking the UK government to withdraw these measures from the bill immediately; by the end of September, at the very latest. The European Parliament’s UK Coordination Group stresses that:

  1. The Withdrawal Agreement, including the Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland, has legally binding force regardless of whether or not the EU and the UK conclude any new treaty governing their future relationship, and;
  2. any issue regarding the implementation of its provisions should be addressed by the Joint Committee and in no case unilaterally by any party to the agreement.

The European Parliament expects the UK government to uphold the rule of law and demands nothing less than the full implementation of all provisions of the Withdrawal Agreement, including the Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland, which is essential to protect the Good Friday Agreement and peace and stability on the island of Ireland.

Should the UK authorities breach – or threaten to breach – the Withdrawal Agreement, through the United Kingdom Internal Market Bill in its current form or in any other way, the European Parliament will, under no circumstances, ratify any agreement between the EU and the UK.

Regarding the outcome of the eighth negotiating round, the European Parliament remains committed to an ambitious partnership with the UK. We are disappointed with the continued lack of reciprocal engagement from the UK side on fundamental EU principles and interests.

The European Parliament calls on the UK to work with the EU constructively and find compromises that are in the interests of our citizens and companies on both sides. Any potential deal should not only preserve our interests, but also respect the integrity of the European Union and its single market.

For any deal to take effect, democratic oversight institutions on both sides of the Channel must be able to carry out a meaningful assessment, as stated in the Withdrawal Agreement. The European Parliament recalls that its consent to any deal will only be granted after detailed scrutiny of the legal provisions. The European Parliament will not accept having its democratic oversight curbed by a last-minute deal beyond the end of October.

Signed by European Parliament group leaders:

Manfred WEBER (EPP, DE)

Iratxe GARCÍA PEREZ (S&D, ES)

Dacian CIOLOŞ (Renew, RO)

Philippe LAMBERTS (Greens/EFA, BE) co-chair

Ska KELLER (Greens/EFA, DE) co-chair

Raffaele FITTO (ECR, IT) co-chair

Ryszard LEGUTKO (ECR, PL) co-chair

Martin SCHIRDEWAN (GUE, DE) co-chair

Manon AUBRY (GUE, FR) co-chair

and by the UK Coordination Group:

David McALLISTER  (EPP, DE), chair

Bernd LANGE (S&D, DE)

Nathalie LOISEAU (Renew, FR)

Christophe HANSEN (EPP, LU)

Kati PIRI (S&D, NL)

Kris PEETERS (EPP, BE)

Pedro SILVA PEREIRA (S&D, PT)

Morten PETERSEN (Renew, DK)

Gunnar BECK (ID, DE)

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Brexit - EU starts infringement process for UK's failure to act in good faith

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As anticipated, the European Commission today (1 October) has sent the United Kingdom a letter of formal notice for breaching its obligations under the Withdrawal Agreement. This marks the beginning of a formal infringement process against the United Kingdom. It has one month to reply to today's letter.

The Withdrawal Agreement states that the European Union and the United Kingdom must take all appropriate measures to ensure the fulfilment of the obligations under the Agreement (Article 5). Both parties are bound by the obligation to cooperate in good faith in carrying out the tasks stemming from the Withdrawal Agreement and must refrain from any measures which could jeopardise the attainment of those objectives.

The UK government tabled the UK Internal Market Bill on 9 September the Commission consider this a  flagrant violation of the Protocol on Ireland Northern Ireland, as it would allow the UK authorities to disregard the legal effect of the Protocol's substantive provisions. Representatives of the UK government have acknowledged this violation, stating that its purpose was to allow it to depart in a permanent way from the obligations stemming from the Protocol.

The UK government has failed to withdraw the contentious parts of the Bill, despite requests by the European Union. By doing so, the UK has breached its obligation to act in good faith, as set out in Article 5 of the Withdrawal Agreement.
Next steps

The UK has until the end of this month to submit its observations to the letter of formal notice. After examining these observations, or if no observations have been submitted, the Commission may, if appropriate, decide to issue a Reasoned Opinion.

Background

The Withdrawal Agreement was ratified by both the EU and the UK. It entered into force on 1 February 2020 and has legal effects under international law.

Following the publication by the UK government of the draft ‘United Kingdom Internal Market Bill' on 9 September 2020, Vice-President Maroš Šefčovič called for an extraordinary meeting of the EU-UK Joint Committee to request the UK government to elaborate on its intentions and to respond to the EU's serious concerns. The meeting took place in London on 10 September between Michael Gove, Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, and Vice-President Maroš Šefčovič.

At the meeting, Vice-President Maroš Šefčovič stated that if the Bill were to be adopted, it would constitute an extremely serious violation of the Withdrawal Agreement and of international law. He called on the UK government to withdraw these measures from the draft Bill in the shortest time possible and in any case by the end of the month of September.

At the third ordinary meeting of the Joint Committee on 28 September 2020, Vice-President Maroš Šefčovič again called on the UK government to withdraw the contentious measures from the bill. The UK government on this occasion confirmed its intention to go ahead with the draft legislation.

The Withdrawal Agreement provides that during the transition period, the Court of Justice of the European Union has jurisdiction and the Commission has the powers conferred upon it by Union law in relation to the United Kingdom, also as regards the interpretation and application of that Agreement.

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Irish foreign minster says EU-UK trade deal breakthrough possible

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There is a window of several weeks for Britain and the European Union to reach a breakthrough in trade talks before Britain’s upper house of parliament considers the contentious Internal Market Bill, Ireland’s foreign minister said, writes Conor Humphries.

“I believe there is a window for negotiations that I hope the two negotiating teams, in particular the UK, will take in terms of giving the signals that are necessary to move this process into a more intensive phase,” Simon Coveney (pictured) told parliament. “It is possible to get a deal here.”

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As Brexit talks intensify, banks see sharply higher risk of no-deal exit

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The chances of Britain leaving the European Union without a trade deal have risen dramatically in the last three months, according to major investment banks, most of which now see the probability of such an outcome at 50% or higher, writes Elizabeth Howcroft.

Britain left the EU in January but is currently in a status-quo transition period, which ends on 31 December irrespective of whether or not a deal is agreed. On Monday (28 September), the two sides started a decisive week of talks, with one diplomat noting an improvement in “mood music”. But all six banks which participated in a Reuters poll in June are more pessimistic, with most citing UK legislation that would breach parts of the withdrawal agreement signed with the EU in January. The move has drawn threats of legal action from the EU.

The most dramatic re-assessment was by Societe Generale, which said the bill “gravely damaged” trust. The probability of no-deal now stands at 80%, according to the bank, which had assigned a 17% chance in June.

Germany’s Commerzbank, meanwhile, puts the probability of no-deal at slightly below 50%, versus 10% in June, a scenario which strategist Thu Lan Nguyen warns could hit the pound hard, possibly resulting in depreciation of “something around 10%”. The currency has fallen around 5% this month but with three months still to go before the transition period expires, options markets are pricing in more volatility ahead.

ING now believes the risk of no deal is 50%, up from 40% three months ago. Only a small proportion of this risk premium is priced by sterling, according to economist James Smith, who sees the currency possibly heading towards parity versus the euro.

In a more detailed forecast, Standard Chartered stuck with a one-in-two chance of an agreement by the end of the year but also saw a 20% chance of the transition period being extended and a 30% chance of exiting without a deal. JPMorgan, not included in the Reuters poll, expects the worst-case outcome to wipe at least three percentage points off UK gross domestic product in 2021. It puts the risk of no-deal at one-in-three but told clients that “with brinkmanship part of the process it may appear higher than that before agreement is reached”.

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