LONDON- The European Union told Britain that there would be no trade deal if it tried to tinker with the Brexit divorce treaty, raising the prospect of a tumultuous end-of-year finale to the saga.
In yet another twist to the four-year saga since Britain voted to quit the EU, Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government was reported to be planning new legislation to override parts of the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement it signed in January.
That could jeopardize the whole treaty and create frictions in British-ruled Northern Ireland, where special arrangements had been made to avoid a hard border with Ireland to the south that could be detrimental to the 1998 peace agreement which ended three decades of conflict in the province.
“I trust the British government to implement the Withdrawal Agreement, an obligation under international law & prerequisite for any future partnership,” said Ursula von der Leyen, head of the EU executive.
“Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland is essential to protect peace and stability on the island & integrity of the single market.”
Britain said it would honor the deal and was simply offering clarifications to avoid any future legal difficulties.
But the Financial Times newspaper cited three people as saying the proposed internal market bill was expected to “eliminate the legal force of parts of the withdrawal agreement” in areas including state aid and Northern Ireland customs.
EU diplomats were aghast, cautioning that such a step, leaked on the eve of new talks in London, would tarnish Britain’s global prestige and heighten chances of a tumultuous final disentangling from the bloc on Dec. 31.