UK government backs down on threat to breach international law

UK government backs down on threat to breach international law

The UK government has backed down on its threat to breach international law in respect of the Northern Ireland part of the Brexit deal after reaching an agreement with the EU.

The government has now agreed to withdraw clauses 44, 45 and 47 of the UK Internal Market Bill, which it had previously admitted would breach the Withdrawal Agreement and Northern Ireland Protocol.

The announcement follows a meeting of the co-chairs of the EU-UK joint committee, European Commission vice-president Maroš Šefčovič and UK Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster Michael Gove.

In a statement, they said they had reached agreement in principle “on all issues” concerning the implementation of the Withdrawal Agreement and the Northern Ireland Protocol from the end of the Brexit transition period on 1 January 2021.

This included agreement in principle on border control post/entry points specifically for checks on animals, plants and derived products, export declarations, the supply of medicines, the supply of chilled meats, and other food products to supermarkets, and a clarification on the application of State aid under the terms of the Protocol.

They also reached agreement in principle with respect to the decisions the joint committee has to take before 1 January 2021, including practical arrangements regarding the EU’s presence in Northern Ireland when UK authorities implement checks and controls under the Protocol.

It also includes determining criteria for goods to be considered “not at risk” of entering the EU when moving from Great Britain to Northern Ireland, the exemption of agricultural and fish subsidies from State aid rules, the finalisation of the list of chairpersons of the arbitration panel for the dispute settlement mechanism so that the arbitration panel can start operating as of next year, as well as the correction of errors and omissions in Annex 2 of the Protocol.

The agreement and the resulting draft texts will now be subject to respective internal procedures in the EU and in the UK before being formally adopted at a meeting of the EU-UK joint committee “in the coming days and before the end of the year”.

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