A letter from Brussels

In reply to our letter to EU leaders denouncing the UK Government’s breach of international law and threat to our democracy via the devolution settlement posed by the Internal Market Bill, we received the following response the same day the European Commission began legal proceedings against the Johnson administration for breaching the spirit and letter of trhe Withdrawal Agreement:

President von der Leyen and Michel Barnier, Head of the Task Force for Relations with the United Kingdom, thank you for your email regarding the UK withdrawal from the EU. 

The UK left the European Union on 31 January 2020. In accordance with its will, it ceased to be a Member State of the EU. This is a decision that the EU has always regretted but also respected. 

The EU is fully committed to the correct implementation of the Withdrawal Agreement, in particular as regards citizens’ rights and the Protocol on Ireland and Northern Ireland. This must be a priority on both sides.

As regards the UK Internal Market Bill tabled by the UK government, on 1 October, the European Commission sent the United Kingdom a letter of formal notice for breaching its obligations under the Withdrawal Agreement, in particular its obligation to act in good faith, as set out in Article 5 of the Withdrawal Agreement. This marks the beginning of a formal infringement process against the United Kingdom. It has one month to reply to the letter.

During the transition period agreed by the EU and the UK, in line with the EU’s negotiating directives adopted by the Council on 25 February 2020 and with the Political Declaration jointly agreed with the United Kingdom on 17 October 2019, the EU will also seek to negotiate a broad and ambitious future partnership with the United Kingdom – one that is in the interests of both British and EU27 citizens. 

As the UK will leave the EU single market and customs union, our relationship will inevitably be different from what it is now and everyone – businesses in particular – should prepare for the changes that will happen in any case as of the end of the transition period.

Nevertheless, as Michel Barnier said on several occasions, our attitude is and will remain resolutely constructive because we want to succeed. We want to build a close and lasting partnership with the United Kingdom, and such a partnership must be founded on mutual respect.

On the question that you raise about the possible devolution of competences within the United Kingdom, this is an entirely internal matter on which the Commission does not wish to speculate. Our interlocutor for the purposes of implementing the Withdrawal Agreement is the government of the United Kingdom. Internal changes in the repartition of competences within the United Kingdom would in principle have no impact in this regard.

Please be assured that we will do our best to agree on the best possible future relationship with the UK. The Commission hopes to have the United Kingdom as a close partner of the European Union in the future.

Yours sincerely,

The Task Force for Relations with the United Kingdom (AMW)