UK close to becoming ‘rogue state’ after ‘reneging’ on Withdrawal Agreement, says Greens co-leader

Philippe Lamberts has sparked fury after he asked in an interview if the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, should trust the words of the British negotiators.
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By Martin Banks

Martin Banks is a senior reporter at the Parliament Magazine

08 Sep 2020

Lamberts’ attack comes after reports that the UK government will introduce a new law this week that could “override” the Withdrawal Agreement (WA) which sets the terms of the UK's exit, including on future trade in Northern Ireland.

Boris Johnson’s government has since said it would only make “minor clarifications in extremely specific areas.”

The new UK Internal Market Bill will be published on Wednesday.

The EU insists the “full implementation” of the WA was a “prerequisite for the negotiations on the future partnership” between the bloc and the UK and Lamberts launched into the UK on Monday by saying that Britain risks turning into a “rogue state” if it reneges on the WA and post-Brexit customs plans with the EU.

The outspoken Belgian MEP, a consistently fierce critic of Brexit and a member of the European Parliament’s UK Coordination group, said, “There are enough rogue states on the planet but the UK risks turning into one if it reneges on its legal commitments under the WA.”

“The UK must abide by what it has agreed to do. The EU cannot negotiate with a rogue state.”

“There are enough rogue states on the planet but the UK risks turning into one if it reneges on its legal commitments” Philippe Lamberts MEP

His comments were condemned by Jayne Adye, director of grassroots, cross-party, eurosceptic campaign group, Get Britain Out, who told this site, “How dare this MEP have the arrogance to suggest the UK is a ‘Rogue State’.”

“David Frost has the full support of Boris Johnson and the British Government. The EU conveniently forgets the majority of Britons voted to leave. It is time MEPs like Mr Lamberts - and other Eurocrats in Brussels - understood the UK is no longer an EU Member State and we do not intend to be tied into the EU’s rules and regulations; their ‘Level Playing Field’; state aid rules; the right to control our own fishing waters - or any role for the European Court of Justice.”

“There are quite a few issues with the WA which still need to be resolved, and the EU should be able to understand this, but the UK is not a ‘rogue state’ as Mr Lamberts suggests. We are an independent nation which has tremendous global opportunities,” Adye added.

Lamberts’ attack, which took place during a UK TV interview, comes as the two sides resume talks in London on Tuesday.

David Frost and Michel Barnier, the two sides’ chief negotiators, will attempt to break the current deadlock over controversial matters such as fisheries, state aid, the Irish border issue and the so-called trade level playing field.

On the eve of the key talks, German GUE/NGL co-chair Martin Schirdewan, also a member of the UK Coordination group, which monitors the Brexit talks, called on the international community to “protect the Good Friday Agreement from British recklessness.”

“If the British government believes that such threats will coerce the EU into allowing them to cherry-pick a trade agreement then they have miscalculated very badly” Martin Schirdewan, GUE/NGL co-chair

The two sides signed off on the WA last year ahead of the UK leaving the bloc on 31 January, but arguably the biggest sticking point throughout negotiations had been how to handle the issue of Northern Ireland.

Schirdewan said the assembly should refuse to sign off on any agreement “unless the full Withdrawal Agreement is implemented.”

He fears the new British government law, to be outlined on Wednesday, “will override a crucial part of the 2019 Withdrawal Agreement on the customs arrangement in the North of Ireland.”

He said, “The British government has embarked on a reckless course of action in threatening to override parts of the WA, adopted in the House of Commons nine months ago. This is the act of a desperate government.”

“They are not only undermining the economic well-being of the whole island of Ireland, but also undermining the hard-won gains of the peace process and the political process in Ireland.”

“If the British government believes that such threats will coerce the EU into allowing them to cherry-pick a trade agreement then they have miscalculated very badly.”

“Compromises need to be found to avoid a mutually harmful no-deal scenario. If the UK still truly wants a deal, running down the clock is not an option” Christophe Hansen MEP

“The Withdrawal Agreement is a legally-binding international treaty. Its repudiation would demonstrate to the world that the British government cannot be trusted to honour any trade agreement they sign up to in future.”

“We call upon the international community, together with progressive and democratic forces in Britain, to come to the rescue of the Good Friday Agreement, and insist that the British government respect their commitments.”

Schirdewan added, “If Boris Johnson fails to implement the WD in its entirety, then the decisive precondition of a future agreement cannot be met. Under these circumstances, there will not be any agreement with the British government.”

Luxembourg EPP member Christophe Hansen, another member of the Coordination Group, said, “Compromises need to be found to avoid a mutually harmful no-deal scenario. If the UK still truly wants a deal, running down the clock is not an option.”

Further comment came from former UK Labour MP Roger Casale, who said, “Anyone who thinks Boris Johnson is serving Britain well with his current Brexit antics must have their hands over their ears and be looking the other way.”

“The collapse of the Withdrawal Agreement would jeopardise the rights of EU citizens in the UK and Britons abroad in the absence of cast-iron unilateral guarantees from the UK and EU respectively. Boris Johnson needs to find a third way to avoid disaster - that means inventing a new phrase such as ‘implementation period’ once the transition period comes to an end and during which time everything will still stay the same.”

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