HomeInsightsEuropean Commission sends letter of formal notice to the UK for breach of its obligations under the Withdrawal Agreement

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In a press release the European Commission said that the sending of the letter marks the beginning of a formal infringement process against the UK. The UK has one month to reply to the letter.

The Commission noted that Article 5 of the Withdrawal Agreement states that the EU and the UK must take all appropriate measures to ensure the fulfilment of the obligations arising from the Withdrawal Agreement, and that they must refrain from any measures which could jeopardise the attainment of those objectives. Both parties are bound by the obligation to cooperate in good faith in carrying out the tasks stemming from the Withdrawal Agreement.

The Commission said that on 9 September 2020 the UK government tabled a Bill (the ‘Internal Market Bill’ that, if adopted, would “flagrantly violate the Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland, as it would allow the UK authorities to disregard the legal effect of the Protocol’s substantive provisions under the Withdrawal Agreement”. The Commission noted that representatives of the UK Government have acknowledged this violation, stating that its purpose was to allow it to depart in a permanent way from the obligations stemming from the Protocol. The Commission noted that that the UK Government has failed to withdraw the contentious parts of the Bill, despite requests by the European Union.

By doing so, the Commission says that in its view the UK has breached its obligation to act in good faith, as set out in Article 5 of the Withdrawal Agreement. Furthermore, it has launched a process which would impede the implementation of the Withdrawal Agreement if the Bill is adopted. As a result, the Commission has launched infringement proceedings in line with the provisions of the Withdrawal Agreement.

The UK has until the end of this month to submit its observations to the letter of formal notice. After examining these observations, or if no observations have been submitted, the Commission may if appropriate decide to issue a Reasoned Opinion. To read the Commission’s press release in full, click here.