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Agencies
September 17, 2020

Brexit agreement cannot be disregarded or disapplied: EU

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A
Agencies
September 17, 2020

BRUSSELS: The UK cannot unilaterally set aside the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement signed by Boris Johnson, European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen has warned.

In her annual State of the Union address to the European Parliament, von der Leyen said both sides had agreed it was the only way to guarantee the Northern Ireland peace process. She said trust would be undermined if the UK started to go back on its international treaty obligations.

The warning came after the government issued legislation enabling ministers to override provisions in the Withdrawal Agreement relating to Northern Ireland.

Johnson has insisted it is intended to provide a legal “safety net” to protect the peace process and ensure the EU could not impose tariffs on goods moving to Northern Ireland from the rest of the UK.

Addressing the parliament in Brussels, von der Leyen said: “This Withdrawal Agreement took three years to negotiate and we worked relentlessly on it line-by-line, word-by-word, and together we succeeded.

“The European Union and the UK jointly agreed that it was the best and only way for ensuring peace on the island of Ireland and we will never backtrack on that. This agreement has been ratified by this house and the House of Commons. It cannot be unilaterally changed, disregarded, disapplied. This is a matter of law and trust and good faith.”

Von der Leyen said Margaret Thatcher had always insisted the UK honoured its treaty commitments. She quoted the former prime minister as saying: “Britain does not break treaties. It would be bad for Britain, bad for relations with the rest of the world and bad for any future treaty on trade.” She added: “This was true then and this is true today. Trust is the foundation of any strong partnership.”

Von der Leyen’s intervention came as senior US congressional figures warned Johnson they would not support any US free trade deal with the UK if he tried to “flout” the Northern Ireland protocol in the Withdrawal Agreement.

In a letter to the Prime Minister, four congressmen led by chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee Eliot Engel said they considered the issues of a trade deal and the Northern Ireland peace process to be “inextricably linked”. Von der Leyen also said that proposed new migration reforms would replace the “Dublin Regulation”, which governs which member state handles a new arrival’s asylum claim.

“I can announce that we will abolish the Dublin Regulation and we will replace it with a new European migration governance system,” she said. “It will have common structures on asylum and return and it will have a new strong solidarity mechanism,” she said.

Her plan will still have to be approved by EU member states, who are deeply divided on the topic.