Downing Street snubs Brussels over Brexit legal threat
3rd November 2020

Downing Street snubs Brussels as it REFUSES to reply to the EU’s threat of legal action over Boris Johnson’s plans to override the Brexit divorce deal

  • Boris Johnson’s plans to tear up parts of Withdrawal Agreement sparked EU fury
  • Brussels launched legal action at start of October after PM refused to back down
  • The bloc had given the UK one month to respond to its ‘letter of formal notice’ 
  • But Downing Street confirmed that it did not bother to send a response to letter 

Downing Street has snubbed a legal threat from the European Union over Boris Johnson’s plans to tear up parts of the Brexit divorce deal. 

Brussels started legal proceedings against the UK at the start of October and gave Mr Johnson one month to formally respond. 

But Number 10 today confirmed it had not bothered to send a reply to the bloc, prompting the EU to warn it will now consider escalating the legal dispute. 

The growing row over the Withdrawal Agreement risks souring relations between the two sides as they try to strike a post-Brexit trade deal.  

Downing Street today confirmed that Boris Johnson, pictured during today’s Cabinet meeting, failed to respond to an EU legal threat over his Brexit plans

The Brexit showdown with the EU was sparked by the publication earlier this year of the Government’s UK Internal Market Bill. 

The legislation, which is currently making its way through Parliament, will enable the UK to unilaterally make decisions on key issues, like customs arrangements between mainland Britain and Northern Ireland, contained within the divorce accord. 

But Brussels is adamant that the decisions must be made by a joint committee made up of people from both sides – a process set out in the Withdrawal Agreement signed by Mr Johnson in January.  

The Government has admitted its proposals will break international law but argues they are needed to protect the integrity of the UK and to prevent chaos if the two sides fail to strike a trade deal by the end of the transition period in December.

The EU had demanded Mr Johnson scrap the offending parts of the legislation but he refused, prompting the bloc to send a ‘formal letter of notice’ at the start of October. 

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen gave the PM one month to respond but Number 10 confirmed at lunchtime that no reply had been sent. 

The EU had complained this morning that it had not received any correspondence on the matter. 

The Prime Minister’s Official Spokesman said: ‘We are committed to working through the joint committee process to find a satisfactory outcome for both sides. That is our overriding priority.’  

But confirming the UK had not sent a reply to the legal letter, the spokesman said Number 10 is ‘not disputing’ the bloc’s version of events. 

European Commission Ursula von der Leyen issued a ‘letter of formal notice’ to the UK at the start of October over the PM’s plans to tear up parts of the Brexit divorce deal. Britain was given one month to respond but the Government opted not to send a reply.

The European Commission said it will now consider escalating its legal action against the UK after its deadline was not met.    

The next step in the process would be for the EU to issue a ‘reasoned notice’ which amounts to a formal demand to comply with the law. 

If the UK failed to comply with such a direction, the European Commission could refer the dispute to the European Court of Justice.

If the court ruled against the UK then it would be legally required to comply with the judgement issued against it. 

Continued refusal to comply could then result in the court imposing financial penalties in the form of a lump sum fine or a daily fine until there is compliance. 

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