explained-why-is-the-uk-moving-ahead-with-legislation-violating-the-brexit-treaty

Context: The European Union (EU) demanded that the UK should drop its plans of changing the Brexit deal or be prepared for these moves to impact trade discussions between them. 

More about news:

  • The EU said the UK had “seriously damaged trust” by publishing the Internal Market Bill to amend clauses within the Brexit agreement it had signed in January this year. 
  • The Internal Market Bill gives the U.K. government the power to override parts of the UK's Brexit agreement.

The Internal Market Bill

  • It gives the UK powers to modify or “disapply” rules relating to the movement of goods that will come into force from 1 January, when the U.K leaves the EU.
  • The UK has attempted to ensure that it will be able to trade freely with its constituent countries, namely, England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland. 
  • One of its main aims is to empower ministers to pass regulations, specifically on trade and state aid, even if they are contrary to the withdrawal agreement previously reached with the EU under what is known as the Northern Ireland protocol.
  • This bill must pass through the UK’s House of Commons and then the House of Lords, the upper chamber, to become a law. 

Background:

  • Even though Brexit happened on 31 January 2020, both sides still need to work out the rules for their new relationship. This includes everything from trade, immigration, aviation, security and access to fishing waters.
  • These rules have to be negotiated and signed off by the EU and UK Parliaments by the end of the year.
  • Currently, the UK is part of the European single market, with jointly agreed regulations and standards right across the continent.

The Northern Ireland protocol

  • It was negotiated by the UK Prime Minister as part of the Brexit deal that saw the UK leave the EU on 31 January 2020.
  • Under the protocol, Northern Ireland will continue to enforce the EU's customs rules and follow its rules on product standards (known as the single market on goods).
  • And this will make checks on goods travelling from Northern Ireland (a non-EU country) into the Republic of Ireland (an EU country) unnecessary.
  • The protocol is due to come into force on 1 January 2021.
  • While Northern Ireland will continue to follow these EU rules, the rest of the UK will stop doing so after 31 December.
  • In order to comply with EU requirements, some checks will be needed on certain goods entering Northern Ireland from Great Britain (England, Scotland and Wales) - creating a regulatory and customs border in the Irish Sea.

The issue

  • Post-Brexit, the UK government wants to continue to have a joint market across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland - the "internal market".
  • That means that if goods were being transported from Northern Ireland to Great Britain for instance, it would not require additional checks. 
  • The UK government’s stance is that the country’s Parliament is sovereign and was authorised to “pass laws which breach the UK’s international treaty obligations”.
  • EU’s response: The UK is legally obliged to ensure the goods entering Northern Ireland from Great Britain are checked as per the EU rules.
    • In response to these plans, the EU has said it will consider legal action against the UK for violating what is an international treaty. 
Image Source: www.bloomberg.com