Boris told to call Barnier’s bluff over Brexit Bill legal threat as EU trade row explodes

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Boris Johnson sparked a Brexit frenzy earlier this month by unveiling, and then pressing ahead with, a legislative masterplan that would undercut parts of the 2020 EU divorce treaty. The EU said it could not trust Britain if it broke international law, explored what legal action it could take and demanded London pull back from the brink. But trade expert Shanker Singham, Chief Executive Officer from Competere, explained litigation on the issue will be good to clarify the objections of both parties.

Speaking at the Future Relationship with the European Union Committee, Mr Singham said: “I don’t want to get hung up on this issue of who is in good faith and who is bad faith.

“The reality is that Northern Ireland protocol is full of inconsistencies.

“It is quite likely and I don’t think we should be afraid of this that we will be in litigation on the Northern Ireland protocol and that is not the end of the world.

“In fact litigation is quite often a good way of clarifying the obligations of the parties between themselves.

“Litigation is a constant feature of the international legal order.

“The UK will be in litigation in the WTO on its changes to its quotas of agriculture so will the EU.”

When asked on arrival in London before informal talks if he was optimistic about reaching a deal, EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier said: “I am determined.”

Four hours later, the UK said it was determined too.

“We’re absolutely determined to do everything that we can to secure a deal,” Cabinet Office Minister Mr Gove, one of Mr Johnson’s most senior ministers, told Parliament. “No deal is in nobody’s interests.”

The UK left the EU in January but under a transition arrangement remains a member in all but name until the end of the year, by which time it hopes to have clinched a free trade deal with the bloc.

Talks have snagged on fishing, state aid rules and how trade will flow to Northern Ireland, which will remain – under the 2020 divorce treaty – in closer orbit to the EU than will the rest of the United Kingdom.


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Mr Gove said the sticking point was that the EU still had not come to grips with the UK’s post-Brexit status as a sovereign state, and so was trying to tie Britain into its rules.

“I’m confident we can overcome those difficulties and secure a free trade agreement which would be in everyone’s interests,” Gove said.

Mr Barnier said the EU would be firm.

He added: “We remain calm, respectful, realistic and firm” but declined to comment on the draft legislation that could override parts of the UK’s EU withdrawal agreement, the Internal Market Bill, or on the odds of securing a trade deal.

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