In Brief

Brexit: Boris Johnson misses EU deadline to explain ‘limited and specific’ law-breaking

European Commission expected to take court action over Internal Market Bill

The UK is facing further legal action from the European Union after Boris Johnson missed the bloc’s deadline to explain why he is planning to renege on parts of the Brexit withdrawal agreement in the event of no-deal.

The European Commission sent a “letter of formal notice” to the UK on 1 October over Johnson’s Internal Market Bill, which breaches elements of the divorce treaty signed earlier this year.

But Brussels confirmed yesterday that the deadline to respond to that letter has now passed - which means that legal action against the UK will proceed in a “sub-plot to the ongoing Brexit drama”, The Independent reports.

“Brussels says the dispute has to be resolved if Britain wants a free trade agreement, which is being negotiated in intensive parallel talks between the two sides,” the newspaper adds.

The prime minister had signed up to the union’s customs code as part of the agreement, but has since argued that the UK should be exempt from certain rules in the event of no-deal. Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Brandon Lewis admitted in the Commons in September that the bill breaks international law in a “limited and specific” way.

Last night, a European Commission spokesperson said: “To date, I can confirm that the EU has received no reply from the UK, therefore we are considering next steps, including issuing a reasoned opinion [of the European Court of Justice].”

Asked why London had not responded, a Downing Street spokesperson said: “We are committed to working through the Joint Committee process to find a satisfactory outcome for both sides. That is our overriding priority. We will respond to the next stages of this process in due course, as required.”

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