PM’s Brexit ‘climbdown’ is not enough says EU, as Biden warns UK on Good Friday Agreement

#Brexit special section Beyond England Downing Street Economy Westminster

Boris Johnson’s Brexit bill “climbdown” with MPs over his contentious internal markets bill is not enough for Europe or senior members of his party.

EU trade commissioner Valdis Dombrovskis said the UK government must “correct” its position before talks on economic and political relations can continue, while the European Commission (EC) said their ultimatum for the PM to remove the offending clauses by the end of the month remains in place.

The warnings comes as US presidential candidate Joe Biden gave notice that he would not allow the Good Friday Agreement to become a “casualty of Brexit” should he beat Donald Trump in November’s election.

Johnson last night agreed to give MPs a vote before ministers can implement measures that will breach the Withdrawal Agreement. However, the European Commission said its ultimatum for the UK government to remove the provisions completely by the end of September – or face legal action and the collapse of Brexit talks – remains in place and unchanged.

PM’s ‘climbdown’ not enough for senior Tories

European Parliament Brexit negotiator Guy Verhofstadt tweeted: “The climbdown by @10DowningStreet on the IM Bill might be ending the Tory Rebellion, but it’s still a clear breach of international law. The @Europarl_EN will not give its consent to any trade deal if this is not rectified & the Good Friday Agreement protected.”

The prime minister’s concession – seen as a move to head-off a Tory backbench rebellion over the government’s plan to “breach international law” –  has also been called inadequate by senior Tories including former Conservative party leader Michael Howard. “The government is still asking parliament to break international law,” Lord Howard told the BBC, signalling his opposition to the bill. “I don’t know what my colleagues will do, but as far as I’m concerned this is a matter of principle.”

Raab’s US trip sees Biden issue warning to UK

Meanwhile, foreign secretary Dominic Raab has been on a trip to Washington to try and reassure US politicians about the recent furore around Brexit and its consequences for Ireland.

Joe Biden, the front-runner in the race for the US presidency tweeted his warning to the UK government: “We can’t allow the Good Friday Agreement that brought peace to Northern Ireland to become a casualty of Brexit. Any trade deal between the U.S. and U.K. must be contingent upon respect for the Agreement and preventing the return of a hard border. Period.”

The former vice-president under Barack Obama retweeted a post by the House Foreign Affairs Committee stating the “bipartisan effort” of Republicans and Democrats “calling on UK to honor Good Friday Agreement” as it negotiates Brexit.

That tweet includes a copy of the letter sent to Boris Johnson from the chairs of three US Congress committees and another congressman, warning the PM “that Congress will not support” a US-UK free trade deal “if Britain fails to uphold commitments with Northern Ireland.”

During his US trip Raab has met with Nancy Pelosi, the leading Democrat in the House of Representatives who similarly warned the UK government there will be “absolutely no chance of a US-UK trade agreement passing the Congress” if the UK “violates its international agreements” and “undermines the Good Friday accord”.

Raab blames Brussels for ‘politicisng’ the issue

Raab has blamed Brussels for the renewed Brexit controversy and wrangling over the Irish border question, and said of his US trip: “I think it’s a great opportunity for me to be clear that the threat to the Good Friday Agreement as it’s reflected in the Northern Ireland protocol has come from the EU’s politicisation of the issue and to be clear on how that’s happened and why that’s happened.”

The UK foreign secretary added: “Our commitment to the Good Friday Agreement and to avoid any extra infrastructure at the border between the North and the South is absolute.”

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