DANIEL HANNAN has laid the blame on the EU after Boris Johnson sparked an angry row with the Brussels bloc signalling a tumultuous end-of-year finale to the Brexit saga.
The former Tory MEP said the Brussels bosses had “absolutely refused” to agree to a trade deal with the UK as it has with “numerous other states”. His remarks come after Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government was reported to be planning new legislation to override parts of the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement he signed in January in yet another twist to the four-year saga since Britain voted to quit the EU.
The move could jeopardise the whole treaty and create frictions in British-ruled Northern Ireland, where special arrangements had been made to avoid a hard border with Ireland to the south that could be detrimental to the 1998 peace agreement which ended three decades of conflict in the province.
But Mr Hannan hit back writing on Twitter: “Remember that the Withdrawal Agreement was accompanied by a promise to conclude – and, indeed, implement – a free trade deal by the end of 2020.
“Since then, Brussels has absolutely refused to agree the kind of standard, low-fat trade deal it has with numerous other states.”
Britain has said it is committed to the divorce deal and was simply offering clarifications to avoid any future legal difficulties.
Mr Johnson’s spokesman said: ”We are taking limited and reasonable steps to clarify specific elements of the Northern Ireland Protocol in domestic law to remove any ambiguity and to ensure the government is always able to deliver on its commitments.”
But the Financial Times newspaper cited three people as saying the proposed internal market bill was expected to “eliminate the legal force of parts of the withdrawal agreement” in areas including state aid and Northern Ireland customs.
EU diplomats were aghast, cautioning that such a step, leaked on the eve of new talks in London on Tuesday, would tarnish Britain’s global prestige and heighten chances of a tumultuous final disentangling from the bloc on December 31.
Ursula von der Leyen, head of the EU executive, tweeted: “I trust the British government to implement the Withdrawal Agreement, an obligation under international law & prerequisite for any future partnership.
“Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland is essential to protect peace and stability on the island & integrity of the single market.”
Britain left the EU on January 31 but talks on a new trade deal before the end of a status-quo transition arrangement in December have snagged on state aid rules and fishing.
London has set a deadline of October 15 to strike a deal.
It comes as Sir Jonathan Jones announced his resignation as the permanent secretary of the Government Legal Department, the Attorney’s General’s Office has said, in the latest departure of a top civil servant.
Sir Jonathan has quit due to a dispute with Downing Street over suggestions it will challenge parts of the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement.
A spokesman for the Attorney General’s Office said: “I can confirm Sir Jonathan has resigned but cannot comment further.”