Brexit: Katya Adler discusses legal proceedings

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Boris Johnson is set to unveil plans to give ministers powers to scrap parts of the Northern Ireland protocol signed with the European Union. BBC Europe editor Katya Adler outlined some of the possible steps the EU could take in response to the new Brexit bill. She reported on sources claiming that “we are so far away” from the possibility that Brussels decides to “suspend the whole post-Brexit agreement” because of the impact the move would have. She claimed “the EU insists that it has a lot more flexibilities to offer” as she noted the bloc could exploit the long process of passing a bill in the UK to push London into new talks to maintain the protocol.

Ms Adler told the BBC Today programme: “I think the EU is going to be watching the commission very carefully today, the proposed legislation from the government, the detail of that legislation.

“What you shouldn’t expect from the EU today, whatever is announced, is for the EU to jump up and down and to throw everything at the government and say ‘we’re going to suspend the post-Brexit trade agreement’.

“Immediately, I think what the EU Is looking to do in its response is to make a very clear dividing line between the actions of the government which the EU says could break international law, depending on the content of this legislation, a breaking of an international agreement agreed and signed by the Prime Minister.

“So once the announcement has been made, you can expect the EU chief negotiator to make a statement or a very small press conference.

“The Commission will then pour over the details of the proposed legislation.

“And a few days later [the commission] will say most likely that it will take legal proceedings against the Government, if it believes that it is breaking the agreed protocol on Northern Ireland

“Members states I have spoken to also said ‘look, we’re not saying we wouldn’t introduce targeted tariffs against the UK and eventually possibly suspend the whole post-Brexit trade agreement’.

“But we are so far, far away from that.

“Just even if you look at those legal proceedings that will probably be restarted by the EU, they take a very long time.

“But the EU says ‘well it’ll take a long time to get this proposed legislation through Parliament as well.

“The hope is in Brussels, that the two sides can sit down at the negotiating table.

“The EU insists that it has a lot more flexibilities to offer, particularly around customs.”

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Referring to the EU and the new UK bill, she added: “I think you cannot ignore what the UK government is proposing the EU at the moment.

“This was a deal that was negotiated by the Prime Minister, it was hailed by the Prime Minister and it was signed by the Prime Minister.

“We do not know the exact details of this legislation.

“And it will be important to see the details of the proposed legislation”.

In light of the new Brexit bill announcement, the EU warned the UK government that unilateral changes to the Protoco could break international law.

Boris Johnson rejected the possibility that the bill would break the law: “I disagree with that. Why? Because I think our higher and prior legal commitment as a country is to the Belfast Good Friday agreement, and to the balance of stability of that agreement”.

A similar warning came also from Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney who warned Liz Truss that a unilateral post-Brexit bill could prove “deeply damaging” as it could result in a possible rupture in relations between the two counterparts.

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