Emergency talks will be held today between Michael Gove and a top EU figure, after Brussels reacted with fury to the UK’s latest Brexit move.
A hastily-arranged meeting will go ahead in London over Prime Minister Boris Johnson‘s plan to override parts of the Withdrawal Agreement he struck and saw passed by parliament last year.
The row centres on a controversial bill published on Wednesday, which revealed plans to hand ministers’ key powers on state aid and Northern Ireland customs – breaking international law, by the government’s own admission.
The EU Commission is sending one of its vice presidents, Maros Sefcovic, to voice Brussels’ concerns and clarify “the full and timely implementation of the withdrawal agreement”.
Meanwhile, legal action is also being considered by the bloc, Bloomberg and Reuters reported.
An EU official said there is “now an inclination among some diplomats to say ‘good riddance’ to Britain”, such is the anger that has been stoked in Brussels.
They added London’s tactics amount to “carpet-bombing”, with the “clear intention to pave the way toward a no-deal”.
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Straight after the showdown on the divorce deal, the two sides’ chief negotiators Michel Barnier and David Frost will hold more face-to-face negotiations on a trade agreement.
This week’s talks have been hailed as a “moment of reckoning” as the clock ticks down to mid-October – the deadline acknowledged by both sides for securing a future relationship.
Overnight it emerged that the prospect of another trade deal hoped for by Mr Johnson could also be blown out of the water by his approach to the Withdrawal Agreement.
Nancy Pelosi, the speaker of the House of Representatives in the US, warned that if the UK “violates its international agreements” relating to the Good Friday Agreement, then “there will be absolutely no chance of a US-UK trade agreement passing the Congress”.
“The Good Friday Agreement is the bedrock of peace in Northern Ireland and an inspiration for the whole world,” the leading Democrat said in a statement.
“Whatever form it takes, Brexit cannot be allowed to imperil the Good Friday Agreement, including the stability brought by the invisible and frictionless border between the Irish Republic and Northern Ireland.”
She said the UK “must respect” the Northern Ireland Protocol signed with the EU, so to “ensure the free flow of goods across the border”.
The UK left the EU on 31 January, but is now in a “transition period”, which means it continues to follow the same rules until the end of the year.
At the start of 2021, either a trade deal will come into effect or there will be no deal, meaning the two sides will revert to trading on World Trade Organisation terms.
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