British PM Johnson planning to override parts of Brexit withdrawal agreement: Financial Times

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LONDON (REUTERS) – The British government is planning legislation that will override key parts of the Brexit withdrawal agreement, risking the collapse of trade negotiations with Brussels, the Financial Times reported on Sunday (Sept 6).  

Sections of the internal market bill, due to be published on Wednesday, are expected to “eliminate the legal force of parts of the withdrawal agreement” in areas including state aid and Northern Ireland customs, the newspaper said, citing three people familiar with the plans.  

A source told the FT that the move could “clearly and consciously” undermine the agreement on Northern Ireland that Prime Minister Boris Johnson signed last October to avoid a return to a hard border in the region.  

The move comes as Britain and the European Union resume talks on a trade deal, with Mr Johnson saying on Sunday that if an agreement is not reached by Oct 15, both sides should “accept that and move on”.

If the sticking point of fisheries and state aid cannot be resolved and a deal agreed, Britain would have a trading relationship with the bloc like Australia’s, which would be “a good outcome”, Mr Johnson said.  

The planned legislation, as reported by the Financial Times, would ratchet up tension between the two sides by attempting to undo some of the elements of the Withdrawal Agreement signed earlier this year, including those relating to the border between EU-member Ireland and Northern Ireland, which is part of the United Kingdom.  

The move was condemned by parties on both sides of the Irish border.  Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney, who played a key role in negotiating the withdrawal agreement and Northern Ireland protocol, said on Twitter that the reported move “would be a very unwise way to proceed.”

Senior members of Northern Ireland’s Sinn Fein and SDLP parties, the region’s two largest Irish nationalist groups, also criticised the British government’s plan, as reported by the newspaper.

Britain has set a deadline of Oct 15 to strike a free-trade deal with the European Union, and if none is agreed both sides should “accept that and move on,” UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson will say on Monday (Sept 6).

Britain left the EU on Jan 31 but there has been little progress on a new trade deal after a status-quo transition arrangement ends in December.

Talks, which have stalled over Britain’s insistence that it has full autonomy over state aid and fishing, are due to resume in London on Tuesday.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves le Drian said an agreement on trade needed to be reached urgently and he blamed the stalemate on Britain’s attitude.

Mr Johnson will say there is no sense in thinking about timelines beyond Oct 15.

“If we can’t agree by then, then I do not see that there will be a free trade agreement between us, and we should both accept that and move on,” he will say, according to comments released by his office.

If no deal is agreed, Britain would have a trading relationship with the bloc like Australia’s, which would be “a good outcome”, Johnson will say.

“As a government we are preparing, at our borders and at our ports, to be ready for it,” he will say. “We will have full control over our laws, our rules, and our fishing waters.”

In that case, Britain would be ready to find sensible accommodation with the bloc on practical issues such as flights, lorry transport or scientific cooperation, according to the excerpts.

UK Brexit negotiator David Frost said on Sunday Britain was not scared of a no-deal exit at the end of the year.

Mr Johnson will say there is still a deal to be had based on a standard free trade agreement if the EU is ready to rethink its current position.

“But we cannot and will not compromise on the fundamentals of what it means to be an independent country to get it,” he will say.

A Global Asset Management Seoul Korea Magazine

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