PM defends planned changes to Withdrawal Agreement (BBC News)

  • Boris Johnson has urged MPs to support a bill which modifies the Brexit deal he signed with the EU in January. The PM said the Internal Markets Bill would “ensure the integrity of the UK internal market” and hand power to Scotland and Wales. He also claimed it would protect the Northern Ireland peace process.
  • Critics say the move will damage the UK’s international standing after a minister admitted the plans break international law.
  • The Scottish government has not ruled out legal action to prevent it becoming law. Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said: “The Tories’ proposed bill for a so-called UK internal market is an abomination. It is a naked power grab which would cripple devolution.”
  • The new bill sets out rules for the operation of the UK internal market – trade between England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland – after the end of the Brexit transition period in January. It proposes:
    • No new checks on goods moving from Northern Ireland to the rest of Great Britain;
    • Giving UK ministers powers to modify or “disapply” rules relating to the movement of goods that will come into force from 1 January if the UK and EU are unable to reach an alternative agreement through a trade deal; and
    • Powers to override previously agreed obligations on state aid – government support for businesses.
  • The bill explicitly states that these powers should apply even if they are incompatible with international law.
  • Ministers say the legislation is needed to prevent “damaging” tariffs on goods travelling from the rest of the UK to Northern Ireland if negotiations with the EU on a free trade agreement fail.

UK to adopt WTO subsidy regime for state aid post-Brexit (Mlex)

  • The UK will follow the subsidy rules of the World Trade Organisation from the start of next year, following the end of the Brexit transition period, the British government said today, ahead of key negotiations with the EU over a future trading relationship.
  • With those commitments, the UK is dropping its decades-long adherence to the EU’s state aid rulebook and setting out its vision for supporting companies without the oversight of Brussels — an issue core to the outcome of the talks.
  • In a statement today, which heightened the rhetoric around a no-deal scenario, the UK government set out its broad objectives on subsidies. It said WTO rules, which the country would follow, are an “internationally recognised common standard covering financial assistance” granted by governments and public authorities to companies.
  • WTO rules apply to goods, and they ban subsidies that are dependent on either how much a company exports, or the use of domestic goods in preference to imports, the government said. The WTO also provides a mechanism to resolve disputes between countries, it added.
  • The government also said that the UK will adhere to any international obligations on subsidies agreed under future free-trade agreements.

EU calls for meeting with UK over ‘strong concerns’ on new Brexit bill (Reuters)

  • European Commission Vice President Maros Sefcovic has called for a swift meeting with his UK counterpart, Michael Gove, responsible for the implementation of the Brexit divorce deal, including on the sensitive Irish border.
  • “I will call for an extraordinary Joint Committee on the Withdrawal Agreement to be held as soon as possible so that our UK partners elaborate and respond to our strong concerns on the bill,” Sefcovic told a news briefing of London’s planned new domestic laws that risk undercutting the EU-UK divorce treaty.
  • In a phone call with Sefcovic late on Tuesday, Gove confirmed London’s commitment to the Brexit treaty’s provisions on the Irish border, a British government spokesperson said.