UK May Reportedly Water-Down Contentious Brexit Bill to Spur Stalled Talks with EU


by Svetlana Ekimenko

As talks to hammer out a deal outlining the post-Brexit relationship between the UK and the European Union have been deadlocked, Prime Minister Boris Johnson warned on Friday that the country was prepared to leave the bloc’s single market at the end of the year without a trade agreement in place.

British officials are reportedly hoping to revive stalled talks with the EU by watering down Boris Johnson’s controversial Internal Market Bill, which rewrites parts of the Brexit withdrawal deal he struck with Brussels last year, reported Bloomberg.

While legislators are suggested as unlikely to reject the proposed law entirely, as it begins its progress through the House of Lords on Monday, they may ditch the most controversial parts in the weeks ahead, claim sources cited by the outlet.

The Prime Minister has up until now refused to budge on the legislation, however, his officials are cited as believing Parliament might urge him to remove the clauses that would be in breach of international law.

Sources claimed Johnson might opt to either drop or dilute the most contentious sections of the law if he is able to hammer out an overarching trade deal with the bloc.

While some suggested the bill was originally conceived as a negotiating tactic, other sources cited by the outlet maintained that ministers would agree on the need for additional guarantees to water down the most controversial powers in the bill in the event that progress is made in talks.

Stalled Talks

Frustration over a lack of progress has been growing, with the Prime Minister warning the EU on Friday that unless it is prepared to fundamentally change its approach towards post-Brexit trade negotiations with the UK, London might opt for a no-deal scenario.

The negotiations to reach a deal between the sides have faces several hurdles, including Johnson’s Brexit legislation. The bill is perceived by Brussels as contradicting the provisions of the previously-negotiated Brexit agreement.

London has been insisting that the legislation would serve as a safeguard in case the EU acts inappropriately after the trade deal is reached.

Nevertheless, the EU is starting legal proceedings against the UK over Boris Johnson’s plan to breach the terms of its Brexit divorce deal.

“This draft bill is by its very nature a breach of the obligation of good faith laid down in the Withdrawal Agreement,” European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen said in Brussels on 1 October.

The Internal Market Bill’s stated chief objective is to avoid a hard border between The Republic of Ireland, which will continue to be part of the EU’s single market, and Northern Ireland, which will be part of the UK’s internal market, by endowing ministers with new powers.

The bill ostensibly seeks to forge a system of common rules across the entire UK, replacing the EU’s ability to set trade policies, in time for the end of the transition period.

On Monday, UK Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove will conduct talks on issues covered by the new law at a joint committee meeting with the EU’s Maros Sefcovic.

Boris Johnson’s chief Brexit negotiator, David Frost, is also to engage with his EU counterpart Michel Barnier this week.

On Sunday, Gove was cited as claiming the door was still “ajar” for talks, with Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick urging the EU to show more “flexibility”.

“Unless something changes, unless they are willing to come back to us and show that degree of flexibility and maturity, we will leave – at the end of the year – the transition period, and trade on the sorts of arrangements that Australia has,” Jenrick was cited by Sky News as saying.



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