EU executive very concerned about British bill plans, would undermine trust

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen makes an annoucement on the composition of the EU Commission College in Brussels, Belgium, September 8, 2020. Aris Oikonomou/Pool via REUTERS

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - European Commission head Ursula von der Leyen expressed strong concern on Wednesday about Britain’s plans to pass a bill breaking a treaty on the withdrawal from the European Union, noting it would destroy trust and undermine trade talks.

Britain announced draft legislation that explicitly acknowledges some of its provisions would break international law, according to a copy seen by Reuters.

The proposals, which the government has said would break international law “in a very specific and limited way”, have contributed to concerns that Britain could leave the EU in four months with no new agreement on trade.

“Very concerned about announcements from the British government on its intentions to breach the Withdrawal Agreement. This would break international law and undermines trust. Pacta sunt servanda = the foundation of prosperous future relations,” von der Leyen said on Twitter.

European Commission Vice President Maros Sefcovic said that a telephone conversation with British minister in charge of planning for a no-deal Brexit Michael Gove on Tuesday evening he made clear that if talks on a future trade deal were to continue the EU had to have trust in London.

“For us this is of course a matter of principle,” Sefcovic told a news conference. “The trust to continue our discussion on the implementation ... is a must.”

Sefcovic called for a swift meeting with Gove to sort out the matter.

“I will call for an extraordinary Joint Committee on the Withdrawal Agreement to be held as soon as possible so that our UK partners elaborate and respond to our strong concerns on the bill,” Sefcovic told a news briefing of London’s planned new domestic laws that risk undercutting the EU-UK divorce treaty.

In a phone call with Sefcovic late on Tuesday, Gove confirmed London’s commitment to the Brexit treaty’s provisions on the Irish border, a British government spokesperson said earlier on Wednesday.

Reporting by Jan Strupczewski, Marine Strauss, Gabriela Baczynska and John Chalmers