Politics

Brexit news – live: Boris Johnson labels EU 'abusive' as commissioner says trade deal at risk


Boris Johnson has claimed the European Union is not acting in “good faith” during talks over a post-Brexit trade agreement, labelling Brussels negotiators “abusive”.

The prime minister said his proposed breach of international law is a matter of “ring-fencing” the Brexit deal to stop EU negotiators making “abusive or extreme interpretations” of the provisions of the Withdrawal Agreement.  

Mr Johnson’s remarks came ahead of a warning from the EU trade commissioner that Britain must comply with the Withdrawal Agreement if it is to secure a free trade deal with Brussels.

Meanwhile, presidential candidate Joe Biden issued a warning to the UK government that any future trade deal with the US is “contingent” on respecting the terms of the Good Friday Agreement preventing a hard border on the island of Ireland.

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Guy Verhofstadt, who was the EU’s chief negotiator during Brexit deal talks, has said the UK government’s Internal Market Bill remains in breach of international law depsite proposed changes:

Liam James17 September 2020 12:26

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Brussels hits back at Johnson’s “good faith” remarks

The European Union negotiates in “perfectly good faith”, a Brussels spokesperson insisted this morning after Boris Johnson claimed otherwise.

The prime minister told MPs he did not believe the EU was acting in good faith during negotiations for post-Brexit relations, but Eric Mamer, spokesperson for the European Commission, today pointed to the EU’s long track record for international negotiations, which he said was “rather splendid”.

Mr Mamer said: “We have a habit of not commenting on comments by third parties but what I can say more generally is that I can point to our hundreds — literally hundreds — of international agreements signed with very, very different third parties of all kinds.

“And I think that they testify to — as I think you say in English — a rather splendid track record when it comes to carrying out negotiations in good faith, and indeed even concluding them.

“So what I would simply do is ask you to go and talk to those third parties with whom we have signed these agreements and further they will testify to the quality of our negotiation.

“And I think that Michel Barnier showed in the context of the negotiations on the Withdrawal Agreement that even on extremely complex and politically sensitive issues the Commission and indeed the EU negotiate in perfectly good faith.”

Liam James17 September 2020 12:14

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UK could be aiding war crimes through Saudi arms sales, UN warns

Britain’s arms sales to Saudi Arabia are potentially “aiding and assisting” war crimes by the country’s forces in Yemen, a UN report warns.

Months after the UK government lifted a court-ordered ban on arms exports to the country, the UN Human Rights Council has said countries fuelling the Saudi war in Yemen were showing a “blatant disregard” for “documented patterns of serious violence”.

Here’s our policy correspondent Jon Stone with more: 

Liam James17 September 2020 11:55

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Johnson’s response to Lord Keen resignation

The government has released Boris Johnson’s letter accepting the departure of Scotland’s advocate general Lord Keen, who resigned in protest against the prime minister’s plan to break international law.

The prime minister told MPs yesterday conversations were ongoing in a bid to keep the law officer in place but by the end of the day he had accepted the peer’s resignation, as the letter shows.

(Downing Street)

Liam James17 September 2020 11:43

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Starmer heads to Scotland

Sir Keir Starmer is on his way to Scotland for his first visit since becoming leader of the Labour party.

After spending the first half of the week in isolation due to a family Covid scare, Sir Keir will head to Edinburgh amid a split in the Scottish Labour party that has seen several MSPs calling for leader Richard Leonard to resign.

Ahead of the trip, Sir Keir criticised the leading SNP for “prioritising independence” during the coronavirus crisis and called for both the Scottish and Westminster governments to “get a grip, focus on the job in hand and work together to defeat this virus”.

He added: “At this crucial time, we cannot have a situation where the four nations of the UK are pulling in different directions.”

Liam James17 September 2020 11:12

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Brexit Bill compromise does not solve legal issue, says peer

David Anderson QC, a life peer and barrister, said the government’s climdown on the controversial Internal Market Bill still allows the Withdrawal Agreement to be overridden for “any reason”.

The crossbench peer argued the proposed changes to the Bill, requiring a vote in the Commons before any law-breaking powers may be used, solve the government’s “political problems” but not their legal ones.

Lord Anderson said the Bill does not “read like a defensive measure” against EU threats to trade — as supporters have claimed — rather a “deliberate and much broader attack on the [Withdrawal Agreement] the PM signed up for”.

He went on to call the the government’s plan a “strategically pointless threat” with “unpredictable and potentially extreme” consequences before saying arguments against the Bill will be “strongly” made in the House of Lords in coming weeks.

Liam James17 September 2020 10:49

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EU will refuse trade deal if UK overrides Withdrawal Agreement, says commissioner

The UK will be denied a free trade agreement with Brussels if the government breaches the terms of the Withdrawal Agreement, the EU’s trade commissioner has said.

Valdis Dombrovskis said Boris Johnson’s government must “correct” its position before negotiations over future trade relations can continue.

Our political editor Andrew Woodcock has the full story:

Liam James17 September 2020 10:19

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How much does US pressure over Brexit Bill hurt Boris Johnson?

As senior US politicians line up to warn Boris Johnson that overriding the Withdrawal Agreement with the EU puts any future US-UK trade deal at risk, our political columnist Andrew Grice asks how damaging a diplomatic dispute with Washington could prove for the prime minister: 

Liam James17 September 2020 09:59

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Tory MP guilty of breaking lobbying rule

Conservative David Morris has been found guilty of breaching a rule prohibiting MPs from lobbying government on behalf of organisations they have recently received donations from.

The member for Morecambe and Lunesdale will have to make a personal apology to the House of Commons after parliament’s standards commissioner found he had breached the paid advocacy rule.

Mr Morris emailed the business secretary and asked a parliamentary question seeking regulations to “protect” companies such as Aquind Ltd, from which he had accepted a £10,000 donation the month prior, the commissioner’s report found.

The standards commissioner said Mr Morris’s breach was “inadvertant” but found his conduct during the investigation to be “regrettable and disrespectful of the House’s system of standards”.

Liam James17 September 2020 09:38

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Chris Grayling handed £100,000 role as ports adviser

Former transport secretary Chris Grayling has landed a £100,000 job as an adviser to the owner of some of the UK’s top ports.

The register of MP’s financial interests shows the former transport secretary  — who earned the nickname “Failing Grayling” for his various blunders during his time in the job — has begun a 7-hour-a-week role as strategic adviser to Hutchison Ports Europe.

He is set to continue in his position for the company, which lists the major ports of Felixstowe and Harwich among its terminals, until the end of August 2021.

The Advisory Committee on Business Appointments (Acoba), which advises MPs and senior civil servants on jobs outside of public service,  approved Mr Grayling’s appointment after he gave assurance that he would advise the company on opportunities after Brexit or commercial maritime affairs.

Advising the former minister on what is acceptable in his new role, Acoba stated he “should not draw on any priveliged information available” from his time as transport secretary or in any government capacity.

The watchdog said Mr Grayling’s role at Hutchison Ports would be limited to advising on environmental strategy and local enterprise.

Liam James17 September 2020 09:06



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