European Parliament vows to block Brexit deal if Boris Johnson refuses to back down

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During private meetings with senior European figures, the Brussels bureaucrat said he was reluctant to offer Britain concessions because of a furious row over legislation that would overwrite large swathes of the Withdrawal Agreement. The Frenchman was said to have lashed out at “British spin” after Downing Street officials claimed the European Union was softening its position, according to a source familiar with the talks. Mr Barnier also poured cold water over next week’s informal trade talks, insisting he would not budge from the bloc’s hardline demands for access to the UK’s coastal waters and a regulatory playing field with a role for European judges.

After the downbeat debrief of the eighth negotiating round, the European Parliament announced it would veto any free-trade agreement with Britain unless the Government’s Internal Market Bill was scrapped.

“Barnier remains steadfast on the most contentious issues,” a member of the EU Parliament’s Brexit committee said after the meeting.

“He is not convinced an imminent move on the level playing field or the role of the European Court of Justice is worthwhile.”

The MEP added Brussels remains posed to sue Britain for its alleged breaches of the divorce treaty signed up to by Boris Johnson less than a year ago.

“The EU’s position is the UK’s internal market idea would be a breach of the UK’s obligations under international law,” they said.

Mr Barnier told EU27 diplomats his visit to London had “not been a huge success”, a source said.

“The talks remained courteous but we’re now coming into the weeks where both sides should be putting their cards on the table and that’s not happening,” a source told the Daily Express.

Amid positivity in No10 a deal can be reached by the end of the year, European diplomats were told progress is not even being made where both sides have similar interests.

The source added: “That’s an illusion, that’s not happening.

“There are many technical areas where it’s not that difficult to make progress but there are many things where I haven’t seen signs there are progress.”

The European Parliament is readying plans to block any trade deal with Britain because of the Government’s proposed legislation that would hand ministers the power to scrap EU customs checks and state aid rules in Northern Ireland.

MEP Nathalie Loiseau, a former French Europe minister, said: “The EP gave its consent to the Withdrawal Agreement believing that it would be implemented fully and in good faith by both parties.

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“The UK Internal Market draft bill goes against this belief and the confidence we had in the British Government’s commitment to abide by an international, legally binding agreement. Until the moment it becomes clear that the UK respects the letter and the spirit of the Withdrawal Agreement in full, we will not vote for any agreement on the future relationship between the EU and UK.”

Morten Helveg Petersen, a member of the EU Parliament’s Brexit committee, added: “The British Government’s actions have been astonishing.

“We hope and expect the UK will uphold the rule of law and fully implement their obligations. This is a requirement for us if we are to build the partnership that we need to build to protect our common prosperity.”

The European Parliament insisted it would not accept any attempts by Downing Street to bundle a last-minute deal across the line.

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An official statement added: “EP leaders are deeply concerned and disappointed that the UK Government has published an Internal Market Bill, which, clearly represents a serious and unacceptable breach of international law in that it violates the Withdrawal Agreement that was signed and ratified by the current UK Government and Parliament not even a year ago.

“The Internal Market Bill gravely damages the necessary trust and credibility which the European Parliament has already said is ‘an essential element of any negotiation’, thus putting at risk the ongoing future relationship negotiations.

“Should the UK authorities breach – or threaten to breach – the Withdrawal Agreement, through the United Kingdom Internal Market Bill in its current form or by any other way, the European Parliament will in no circumstance ratify any agreement on the future relation between the EU and the UK.”

The European Commission is adamant the Government has until the end of the month to scrap its Northern Ireland plan if trade talks are allowed to continue.

A spokesman said: “We have set a deadline for the UK. Therefore we’re going to take this step by step, we’re going to wait for the reaction of the UK by that deadline, and we’ll consider next steps once we’ve reached that particular bridge.”

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