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Proposed UK legislation in breach of the Withdrawal Agreement

Question écrite de M. Barry ANDREWS - Commission européenne

Question de M. Barry ANDREWS, Mme Liesje SCHREINEMACHER,

Diffusée le 6 septembre 2020

Subject: Proposed UK legislation in breach of the Withdrawal Agreement

The proposed UK internal market and finance bills are set to override clauses of the Withdrawal Agreement, in particular the Protocol on Ireland and Northern Ireland, on issues involving State aid and Northern Ireland customs 1.

As was agreed in the Withdrawal Agreement in 2019, the UK must notify the EU of State aid decisions that affect the market of Northern Ireland. According to the UK bills, UK courts would soon have to follow UK law instead of the Withdrawal Agreement on this matter.

Mr Barnier has insisted that the precise implementation of the Withdrawal Agreement remains vital for the future relationship between the EU and the UK.

Non-implementation of the Withdrawal Agreement after less than one year of its signing by the UK would lead to a lack of trust and reopen cross-border issues.

1. Will the Commission address this issue with the UK in the Joint Committee?

2. Will the Commission open a dispute settlement procedure if the UK introduces the bills overriding clauses of the Withdrawal Agreement?

3. Will the Commission make clear to the UK that it has to respect its international obligations and that it will not reopen negotiations on the Withdrawal Agreement?


Réponse - Commission européenne

Diffusée le 11 février 2021

Answer given by President von der Leyen on behalf of the European Commission (12 February 2021)

The Commission immediately reacted to the draft Internal Market Bill tabled by the United Kingdom (UK) government by calling an extraordinary meeting of the Joint Committee under the Withdrawal Agreement to express the Union’s concerns (2).

In this meeting of 10 September 2020, the Commission made it absolutely clear that if adopted as proposed, certain elements of the draft Bill would constitute a serious breach of the Withdrawal Agreement and thus of international law obligations that the UK accepted when ratifying the Agreement. Consequently, it asked the UK to withdraw these elements from the Bill, at the latest by end of September 2020 (3).

As the Bill was neither modified nor withdrawn by that date, the Union launched an infringement procedure on 1 October 2020, under Article 5 of the Withdrawal Agreement (good faith obligation).

The UK did not reply to the letter of formal notice. However, ultimately the UK Government issued a statement (4) on 7 December 2020, pledging to remove and deactivate the controversial clauses of the Bill. Accordingly, the UK Government amended the Bill (5) before its adoption, to remove these clauses.

The Joint Committee has clearly defined tasks under the Withdrawal Agreement (6) and it cannot be used to renegotiate the Withdrawal Agreement. This was strongly reiterated by the Union in the meetings of the Joint Committee. The Commission has also cautioned the UK against unilateral action in the future. The Commission will continue to closely monitor the implementation of the Withdrawal Agreement, in all its dimensions. The Commission is ready to use the range of legal remedies at its disposal for possible breaches of the Withdrawal Agreement.



⋅3∙ See also the press statement of Vice-President Šefčovič after the meeting:


protocol/uk-government-statement-on-the-uk-eu-joint-committee-and-the-implementation-of-the-northern-ireland-protocol ⋅5∙

⋅6∙ In accordance with Article 164.4c of the Withdrawal Agreement, the Joint Committee shall ‘seek appropriate ways and methods of preventing problems that might

arise in areas covered by the Agreement or of resolving disputes that might arise regarding the interpretation of the application of this Agreement’.

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