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Statement of the UK Coordination Group and the leaders of the political groups of the #EuropeanParliament

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The UKCG and the European Parliament political group leaders issued the following statement after meeting with Chief EU Negotiator Michel Barnier (pictured, centre) and Joint Committee Co-Chair Maroš Šefčovič, today (11 September).

The European Parliament’s UK Coordination Group (UKCG) met today to assess the impact of the United Kingdom Internal Market Bill on the implementation of the Withdrawal Agreement with EU-UK Joint Committee Co-Chair Maroš Šefčovič and to evaluate the ongoing negotiations on the future EU-UK relationship with EU Chief Negotiator Michel Barnier.

European Parliament political group leaders and UKCG members are deeply concerned and disappointed that the UK Government published an Internal Market Bill that clearly represents a serious and unacceptable breach of international law. It violates the Withdrawal Agreement that was signed and ratified by the current UK Government and Parliament less than a year ago. The Internal Market Bill gravely damages the trust and credibility that the European Parliament has already said is “an essential element of any negotiation”, thus putting at risk the ongoing negotiations on the future relationship.

The European Parliament supports EU Chief Negotiator Michel Barnier and Commission Vice-President Maroš Šefčovič in asking the UK government to withdraw these measures from the bill immediately; by the end of September, at the very latest. The European Parliament’s UK Coordination Group stresses that:

  1. The Withdrawal Agreement, including the Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland, has legally binding force regardless of whether or not the EU and the UK conclude any new treaty governing their future relationship, and;
  2. any issue regarding the implementation of its provisions should be addressed by the Joint Committee and in no case unilaterally by any party to the agreement.

The European Parliament expects the UK government to uphold the rule of law and demands nothing less than the full implementation of all provisions of the Withdrawal Agreement, including the Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland, which is essential to protect the Good Friday Agreement and peace and stability on the island of Ireland.

Should the UK authorities breach – or threaten to breach – the Withdrawal Agreement, through the United Kingdom Internal Market Bill in its current form or in any other way, the European Parliament will, under no circumstances, ratify any agreement between the EU and the UK.

Regarding the outcome of the eighth negotiating round, the European Parliament remains committed to an ambitious partnership with the UK. We are disappointed with the continued lack of reciprocal engagement from the UK side on fundamental EU principles and interests.

The European Parliament calls on the UK to work with the EU constructively and find compromises that are in the interests of our citizens and companies on both sides. Any potential deal should not only preserve our interests, but also respect the integrity of the European Union and its single market.

For any deal to take effect, democratic oversight institutions on both sides of the Channel must be able to carry out a meaningful assessment, as stated in the Withdrawal Agreement. The European Parliament recalls that its consent to any deal will only be granted after detailed scrutiny of the legal provisions. The European Parliament will not accept having its democratic oversight curbed by a last-minute deal beyond the end of October.

Signed by European Parliament group leaders:

Manfred WEBER (EPP, DE)

Iratxe GARCÍA PEREZ (S&D, ES)

Dacian CIOLOŞ (Renew, RO)

Philippe LAMBERTS (Greens/EFA, BE) co-chair

Ska KELLER (Greens/EFA, DE) co-chair

Raffaele FITTO (ECR, IT) co-chair

Ryszard LEGUTKO (ECR, PL) co-chair

Martin SCHIRDEWAN (GUE, DE) co-chair

Manon AUBRY (GUE, FR) co-chair

and by the UK Coordination Group:

David McALLISTER  (EPP, DE), chair

Bernd LANGE (S&D, DE)

Nathalie LOISEAU (Renew, FR)

Christophe HANSEN (EPP, LU)

Kati PIRI (S&D, NL)

Kris PEETERS (EPP, BE)

Pedro SILVA PEREIRA (S&D, PT)

Morten PETERSEN (Renew, DK)

Gunnar BECK (ID, DE)

Brexit

EU's Barnier still hopes trade deal with Britain possible, sources say

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The European Union’s Brexit negotiator told the bloc’s 27 national envoys to Brussels that he still hoped a trade deal with Britain was possible, stressing that the coming days would be decisive, diplomatic sources with the bloc told Reuters, write and

Michel Barnier addressed the gathering on Wednesday (16 September) and the three sources either participated in the discussion behind closed doors or were briefed on its content.

“Barnier still believes a deal is possible though the next days are key,” said one of the EU diplomatic sources.

A second diplomat, asked what Barnier said on Wednesday and whether there was still a chance for a new agreement with the UK, said: “The hope is still there.”

The first source said tentative concessions offered by the UK on fisheries - a key point of discord that has so far prevented agreement on a new EU-UK trade deal to kick in from 2021 - were “a glimmer of hope”.

Reuters reported exclusively on Tuesday (15 September) that Britain has moved to break the deadlock despite that fact that publicly London has been threatening to breach the terms of its earlier divorce deal with the bloc.

A third source, a senior EU diplomat, confirmed the UK offer but stressed it was not going far enough for the bloc to accept.

Brexit talks descended into fresh turmoil this month over Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s plans to pass new domestic laws that would undercut London’s earlier EU divorce deal, which is also aimed at protecting peace on the island of Ireland.

US Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden warned Britain that it must honour the Northern Irish peace deal as it extracts itself from the EU or there would be no US trade deal for the United Kingdom.

The third EU source, who spoke under condition of anonymity, said that the bloc would take a more rigid line in demanding a solid dispute settlement mechanism in any new UK trade deal should Johnson press ahead with the Internal Market Bill.

“There is unease about what Britain is doing but Barnier has stressed he will keep negotiating until his last breath,” said a fourth EU diplomat, highlighting the bloc’s wariness about being assigned blame should the troubled process eventually fail.

Asked about an estimate by Societe Generale bank, which put at 80% the probability of the most damaging economic split at the end of the year without a new deal to carry forward trade and business ties between the EU and the UK, the person said:

“I would put it around the same mark.”

Barnier is due to meet his UK counterpart, David Frost, around 1400 GMT in Brussels on Thursday.

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Biden warns UK on #Brexit - No trade deal unless you respect Northern Irish peace deal

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US Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden warned the United Kingdom that it must honour the Northern Irish peace deal as it extracts itself from the European Union or there would be no US trade deal, write and

“We can’t allow the Good Friday Agreement that brought peace to Northern Ireland to become a casualty of Brexit,” Biden said in a tweet.

“Any trade deal between the US and UK must be contingent upon respect for the Agreement and preventing the return of a hard border. Period.”

Johnson unveiled legislation that would break parts of the Brexit divorce treaty relating to Northern Ireland, blaming the EU for putting a revolver on the table in trade talks and trying to divide up the United Kingdom.

He says the United Kingdom has to have the ability to break parts of the 2020 Brexit treaty he signed to uphold London’s commitments under the 1998 peace deal which ended three decades of sectarian violence in Northern Ireland between pro-British Protestant unionists and Irish Catholic nationalists.

The EU says any breach of the Brexit treaty could sink trade talks, propel the United Kingdom towards a messy exit when it finally leaves informal membership at the end of the year and thus complicate the border between Northern Ireland and EU-member Ireland.

The EU’s Brexit negotiator told the bloc’s 27 national envoys that he still hoped a trade deal with Britain was possible, stressing that the coming days would be decisive, three diplomatic sources told Reuters.

Michel Barnier addressed the gathering on Wednesday and the three sources either participated in the discussion behind closed doors or were briefed on its content.

“Barnier still believes a deal is possible though the next days are key,” said one of the EU diplomatic sources.

Johnson told The Sun that the EU was being “abusive” to Britain and risking four decades of partnership.

He said the UK must “ring-fence” the Brexit deal “to put in watertight bulkheads that will stop friends and partners making abusive or extreme interpretations of the provisions.”

Societe Generale analysts said on Thursday they now see an 80% chance that Britain and the EU will fail to strike a trade deal before the end of the year.

Biden, who has talked about the importance of his Irish heritage, retweeted a letter from Eliot Engel, chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the US House of Representatives, to Johnson calling on the British leader to honour the 1998 Good Friday peace deal.

Engel urged Johnson to “abandon any and all legally questionable and unfair efforts to flout the Northern Ireland protocol of the Withdrawal Agreement.”

He called on Johnson to “ensure that Brexit negotiations do not undermine the decades of progress to bring peace to Northern Ireland and future options for the bilateral relationship between our two countries.”

Engel said Congress would not support a free trade agreement between the United States and the United Kingdom if Britain failed to uphold its commitments with Northern Ireland.

The letter was signed by Representatives Richard Neal, William Keating and Peter King.

Johnson is pushing ahead with his plan.

His government reached a deal on Wednesday (16 September) to avert a rebellion in his own party, giving parliament a say over the use of post-Brexit powers within its proposed Internal Market Bill that breaks international law.

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UK sees 'a way through' parliamentary maze for #Brexit treaty breach bill

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British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government sees a ‘way through’ the parliamentary maze for his bill that would break the Brexit divorce treaty as it talks with rebels in the Conservative Party, a minister said on Wednesday (16 September). write Guy Faulconbridge and Kate Holton.

Johnson’s Internal Market Bill, which the EU has demanded he scrap by the end of September, is currently being debated in parliament, though he is facing a rebellion by some members of his Conservative Party.

“I believe there is a way through,” Robert Buckland told the BBC when asked about negotiations with rebels in parliament over the bill, adding that London wanted a deal with the EU.

“In terms of shared understanding, I have already seen quite a difference,” he said when asked about a possible compromise in parliament.

Asked if he had been involved in negotiations with Bob Neill, a Conservative lawmaker, Justice Secretary Robert Buckland said: “There are lots of discussions going on with all MPs from all parts of the debate, not just Bob Neill.”

“We want to get this bill through, we want to make sure that we are ready for any disagreements or disputes that might arise if we don’t get agreement in the joint committee,” he said. “For me, I just want Brexit sorted.”

Buckland told Times Radio that the bill was needed as an insurance policy in case the EU made a “material breach” of their obligations but that the talks were not yet at that stage and that London would use current mechanisms to find a compromise.

The EU says Johnson’s bill could collapse trade talks and propel the United Kingdom towards a messy Brexit while former British leaders have warned that breaking the law is a step too far that undermines the country’s image.

Johnson said it was essential to counter “absurd” threats from Brussels including that London put up trade barriers between Britain and Northern Ireland and impose a food blockade - steps he said threatened the United Kingdom’s unity.

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