Brexit: Key facts ahead of next week's talks

Lucy Harley-McKeown
·4 mins read
Boris Johnson urged the EU to 'take their threats off the table' in a Tweet. Photo: Stefan Rousseau- WPA Pool/Getty Images
Boris Johnson urged the EU to 'take their threats off the table' in a Tweet. Photo: Stefan Rousseau- WPA Pool/Getty Images

Prime Minister Boris Johnson made moves to set out the UK’s position in upcoming negotiations with the European Union on Saturday, Tweeting that the bloc should “take their threats off the table.”

“And let’s get this Bill through, back up our negotiators, and protect our country,” the Tweet continued.

The UK and EU have been locked in a tussle over more controversial elements of the Internal Market Bill, which is due to be debated in parliament for the first time on Monday.

Informal talks with the EU resume on Monday, with a ninth official round of talks kicking in Brussels on the 28 September.

And with less than five weeks before Johnson’s 15 October deadline - after which he says he is prepared to "walk away,” here’s what you need to know ahead of talks next week:

The Ireland issue

The bill looks at the Northern Ireland Protocol — part of the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement designed to prevent a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic.

Originally, the UK agreed it would follow EU state aid law for all matters that affected goods trade, yet now that is being brought into contention.

Officials have argued that depending on its interpretation, article 10 of the protocol could give the EU power over state aid to UK companies operating outside of Northern Ireland.

A Conservative MP has proposed an amendment to the bill which would affect trade between Britain and Northern Ireland.

The EU has threatened legal action over the bill, which ministers have said will break international law in a "specific and limited way."

The European Parliament threatened to take any UK-EU trade deal off the table if it becomes UK law.

Johnson’s take

Meanwhile, Johnson has said the bill is designed to protect the country’s integrity.

Among other things, with the EU stepping up planning for talks on trade to end without a deal, Johnson has accused its negotiators of threatening to impose a food blockade between mainland Britain and Northern Ireland.

A comment piece by Johnson published in The Telegraph on Saturday said: “If both sides want it, there is a great free trade deal there to be done. So I have become anxious in the last few weeks to discover that there is an obstacle.”

He said there might be a "serious misunderstanding" between the UK and EU over the Withdrawal Agreement.

He said the UK must be protected from the EU’s moves to "carve up our country" and "endanger peace and stability in Northern Ireland."

The piece argues for a Canada-style agreement between the EU and the UK.

Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove echoed the Prime Minister’s sentiments on BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme, saying blocking food transportation under a third-country listing would be “irrational.”

He argued the attorney general had said the government was acting within the rule of law, insisting the government was being "proportionate and generous" in its approach to the EU talks.

Opposition

Aside from the threat of a legal challenge from the EU itself, a slew of backbench MPs have voiced opposition to the bill.

The Prime Minister attempted to rally the support of his MP’s on Friday in a Zoom call some have called chaotic.

Despite a majority of 80 MPs in parliament, discontent is brewing, with Johnson facing a possible revolt.

"I believe it is potentially a harmful act for this country, it would damage our reputation and I think it will make it harder to strike trade deals going forward," backbencher Robert Neill told Channel 4 News.

Even if the bill passes smoothly through the House of Commons, it may struggle to get through the House of Lords afterwards, peers have warned.

Brexit backing former Conservative Party leader Lord Howard of Lympne, told Sky he would be "very surprised" if it was passed.

He said there is "no mandate from the British people to break treaties."