Saturday, 31 Oct 2020

Robert Peston exposes Ursula von der Leyen’s secret plot to ‘test’ Boris Johnson on Brexit

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The Prime Minister and Commission chief will hold talks tomorrow to take stock of the current Brexit process. As the final round of negotiations between Lord David Frost and his counterpart, Michel Barnier, concludes today, Mr Peston outlined why Ms von der Leyen will hold talks with the Prime Minister tomorrow. Amid the controversy surrounding the UK Internal Market Bill, the ITV journalist admitted there is still “much suspicion” on the continent.

According to the journalist, Ms von der Leyen is looking to analyse whether the Prime Minister wants a free trade agreement and is prepared to negotiate in good faith.

Writing today, he said: “The announcement that Ursula Von Der Leyen and Boris Johnson will be speaking tomorrow afternoon ‘to take stock of negotiations’ carries a weighty implication – namely that the EU wants to test whether the prime minister actually wants a free trade agreement and is prepared to negotiate in what EU leaders regard as ‘good faith’.

“There is much suspicion, fuelled by the PM’s decision to legislate to break the Withdrawal Agreement he signed, that the UK is talking only so as to find a way of blaming the EU for the absence of a deal, rather than because it actually wants a deal.

“For the avoidance of doubt and possibly to the annoyance of the UK’s negotiator David Frost, Michel Barnier and the EU negotiating side have taken a principled decision to just keep talking, and never stomp out.

“The EU does not want to be seen to be terminating the talks.

“It is reserving that dubious privilege for Boris Johnson.”

The meeting between the two officials comes after Ms von der Leyen announced a legal notice to the UK on Thursday.

EU officials are concerned by the elements concerning state aid within the UK Internal Market Bill.

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Under the legislation, exit summary declarations can also be modified or disapplied by the UK Government, despite what was signed in the withdrawal agreement.

Secondly, although Northern Ireland is included in the EU’s state aid infrastructure, the Internal Market Bill allows ministers to apply state aid law according to the UK rather than Europe.

This is what caused EU officials to push for legal proceedings against the UK.

The UK Internal Market Bill is currently having its second reading in the House of Lords.

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The legislation was passed by the Commons 340-256, despite criticism from some MPs.

With the legislation proceeding to the Lords, Ms von der Leyen warned the UK is not acting in good faith.

She said: “As you know, we had invited our British friends to remove the problematic parts of their draft Internal Market Bill by the end of September.

“This draft Bill is – by its very nature – a breach of the obligation of good faith.

“Therefore, this morning, the Commission has decided to send a letter of formal notice to the UK government.

“This is the first step in an infringement procedure.

“The letter invites the UK government to send its observations within a month.”

Despite this controversy, UK and EU officials will continue negotiations next week in pursuit of a deal.

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