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The leaked dossier, drawn up by the European Commission, revealed the bloc is planning to take the Government to the European Court of Justice over an alleged breach of international law. The bloc hopes the threat of fines issued by its judges in Luxembourg will dissuade the Prime Minister from ripping up the divorce deal. Eurocrats could even trigger a trade war by cancelling larges swathes of any free-trade agreement between the UK and EU.
The Commission could start the legal proceedings even before the legislation is passed by Parliament in a bid to convince MPs and Peers to rebel against the Prime Minister.
And European diplomats and officials were also told to openly criticise Downing Street after the publication the Internal Market Bill sparked a furious row.
An analysis by eurocrats claimed the legislation “is in violation” of the EU Withdrawal Agreement signed between Mr Johnson and the bloc less than a year ago.
“The Withdrawal Agreement has entered into force on February 1, 2020, and has legal effects under international law,” the document says.
“Since then, no party can unilaterally change, clarify, amend or misapply it anymore.”
The note was drawn up by the Commission’s top lawyers after ministers admitted they could breach international law to overwrite EU customs checks carried out on all goods entering or exiting Northern Ireland.
The EU legal service said the Bill is a “clear breach of substantive provisions” of the Northern Ireland border fix and “the good faith obligation” agreed with the Government.
If No 10 refuses to scrap or amend the legislation, eurocrats will ask the ECJ to rule on whether the terms of the Brexit deal have been breached.
EU judges can then decide to slap Britain with huge daily fines or even suspend access to the single market.
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“The Court of Justice has full powers as provided for under the Treaties, including the possibility to impose a lump sum or penalty payment on the State that has not taken the necessary measures to comply with the ruling of the Court establishing the breach,” the legal advice says.
Under the terms of the EU divorce deal, top eurocrats can decide to block British firms from exporting to their single market or cut the City of London’s ability to do business on the Continent if Mr Johnson refuses to pay the penalty charges.
The bloc’s lawyers looked into the possibility of ending the post-Brexit transition period early, but conceded “given the length of the pre-litigation phase, it is unlikely the case against the UK can be brought to the Court before the end of the year”.
“However, infringement procedures for facts occurred before the end of the transition period can be brought to the Court during four years after the end of the transition,” the document adds.
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An EU diplomat said: “Capitals will now study the law. Should it be found to contravene the Withdrawal Agreement and remain intact after parliamentary scrutiny the appropriate procedures in the divorce deal will apply.”
A “lines to take” script was also circulated to diplomats from the 27 EU nations, ordering them to rubbish the Downing Street legislation.
Mr Johnson has defended his plans as a “safety net” to ensure unfettered access within the four parts of the United Kingdom after the transition period expires at the end of the year.
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But diplomats were advised “the draft Bill deposited by the UK Government raises serious concerns”.
The note goes on: “It casts doubt as to the Government’s commitment to abide by its obligations under the Withdrawal Agreement and to fully implement it.
“The Union will take all appropriate measures to ensure the full implementation of the Withdrawal Agreement.”
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