Internal Market Bill continues to be a stumbling block in Brexit negotiations

The United Kingdom is insisting it will not abandon plans to create a law that would allow it to ignore the Brexit withdrawal deal it negotiated with the European Union last year, despite the bloc urging it to do so as negotiations for a free-trade deal resume.

Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove said after meeting European Commission Vice-President Maros Sefcovic on Monday that the nation remains committed to finding a free-trade deal in talks that resumed on Tuesday, despite the row about the proposed law.

But the BBC quoted Sefcovic, the European Commission’s vice-president for inter-institutional relations, as saying the UK’s negotiating position was “far apart from what the EU can accept”.

The controversial legislation, called the Internal Market Bill, would allow the UK to ignore the Brexit withdrawal agreement, which is colloquially referred to as the “divorce deal” between the nation and the bloc that was forged to manage Britain’s exit from the EU back in January, after 47 years of marriage.

London says it needs the Internal Market Bill to manage trade between England, Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales and if necessary to override agreements made with the EU on the movement of goods between Great Britain and Northern Ireland. London says the withdrawal agreement’s aim of preventing a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, an EU member, may not be achievable.

But the EU insists the divorce deal must be honored and that there are other ways to address the UK’s concerns about the border on the island of Ireland. The EU has called on London to abandon contentious parts of the Internal Market Bill by the end of September or possibly face legal action.

Gove told the BBC that London is not prepared to do that.

“There are those in the European Union who have been concerned about clauses in the Internal Market Bill but I was able to stress today these clauses are a safety net,” he said.

The Financial Times newspaper quoted Sefcovic as saying: “We maintain that the bill, if adopted in its current form, would constitute an extremely serious violation of the protocol, as an essential part of the withdrawal agreement, and of international law.”

The Evening Standard newspaper noted that the Internal Market Bill was set to conclude its report stage in the House of Commons on Tuesday, during which it was scrutinized by parliamentary committees. The next stage will see it return to the main debating chamber.

The UK has insisted the controversial legislation may never be needed, if the UK and the EU can agree a free-trade deal, but time for that is running out. The British government has said negotiations for a deal can continue until a meeting of the EU Council on Oct 15.

If the two sides fail to find a deal, the UK will revert to trading with the bloc under the terms of the World Trade Organization, something experts predict will lead to long queues at borders, rising prices, and shortages.

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