Show an ad over header. AMP

Brexit talks thrown into chaos as EU accuses U.K. of violating "trust," international law

Nine months after Boris Johnson won a smashing majority on the promise of an "oven-ready" Brexit deal, the U.K. government is threatening to blow up trade talks with the European Union by declaring its intent to violate that very agreement.

Driving the news: An emergency U.K.-EU meeting was called in London today after a government minister made a stunning admission on the floor of the House of Commons this week — that a new bill seeking to override parts of the Brexit deal would indeed "break international law."

How we got here: The three-year political deadlock that followed the 2016 Brexit referendum effectively boiled down to one thorny issue — how to extricate the U.K. from Europe's customs rules while avoiding a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

  • The elimination of border controls was a central plank of the Good Friday Agreement, which brought an end to decades of sectarian violence in Northern Ireland. The U.K. and the EU have consistently expressed their commitment to upholding the peace deal.
  • Johnson managed to strike an unlikely Brexit deal by agreeing to keep Northern Ireland aligned with EU rules, effectively creating a customs and regulatory border in the Irish Sea.
  • A joint EU-U.K. committee would be established to determine whether goods traveling to Northern Ireland from England, Scotland and Wales would be "at risk" of entering the Republic, and therefore subject to EU customs checks.

Flash forward: Johnson succeeded in ramming the deal through Parliament on an expedited timetable, allowing the U.K. to leave the EU on Jan. 31 and buying him an 11-month transition period to negotiate a comprehensive free-trade agreement.

  • Those talks have faltered. Johnson is now threatening to walk away from the table on Oct. 15 so the country can prepare for a "no-deal" Brexit on New Year's Eve.
  • The surprise bill introduced this week would allow U.K. ministers to unilaterally determine which goods should be subject to EU checks and tariffs when passing from Great Britain to Northern Ireland.
  • In other words, with negotiations at risk of collapsing, the government is reneging on an international treaty that Johnson himself signed, stamped and delivered.

The view from Downing Street: The Brexit deal isn't "like any other treaty," a government spokesperson said in a statement, stressing that it was always written on the basis that the U.K. and EU would work through some of its ambiguities.

  • "It was agreed at pace at the most challenging political circumstances, to deliver on a clear political decision of the British people," the spokesperson added.

The view from Westminster: It's not clear what kind of parliamentary rebellion Johnson's bill is facing, but three former leaders of his own Conservative Party — John Major, Michael Howard and Theresa May — have excoriated the move.

  • "How can we reproach Russia, or China, or Iran when their conduct falls below internationally accepted standards, when we are showing such scant regard for our treaty obligations?" Howard asked today.

The view from Brussels: The EU has urged the U.K. to scrap the bill and is threatening legal action if it refuses.

  • The U.K. has "seriously damaged trust" between the two sides, the European Commission said in a statement. "It is now up to the U.K. government to re-establish that trust."

The view from Washington: The prospect of a lucrative trade deal with the U.S. has always been touted as one of the main arguments for Brexit. But according to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, there is "absolutely no chance" of Congress passing a deal if the U.K. violates the Good Friday Agreement.

The bottom line: Experts have long warned about the potentially catastrophic economic disruptions that could result from a "no-deal" divorce from the EU, the U.K's largest and closest trading partner.

  • The likelihood of that happening is now higher than it ever was during three years of pre-Brexit stalemate — this time with an economy already devastated by the coronavirus.

Go deeper: Northern Ireland's Brexit balancing act (2019)

Louisville police declare state of emergency as Breonna Taylor decision looms

The Louisville Metro Police Department (LMPD) declared in a memo obtained by news outlets a "state of emergency" on Monday to prepare for Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron's expected announcement on the Breonna Taylor case.

Of note: Louisville has witnessed more than 115 days of protests over the police killing of Taylor, an unarmed Black woman, with calls for all the officers involved to be charged.

Keep reading... Show less

Sen. Cory Gardner on vacant Supreme Court seat: "I will vote to confirm"

Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) will vote to confirm President Trump's nominee to replace the late Ruth Bader Ginsburg, he announced in a statement Monday.

Why it matters: The development is a win for President Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). It should mean Republicans are all but assured to have enough support to hold hearings for Trump's potential nominee.

Keep reading... Show less

Trump and Xi to give dueling speeches Tuesday at UN General Assembly

President Trump and China’s Xi Jinping will address the UN General Assembly just minutes apart on Tuesday morning — with Russia’s Vladimir Putin following soon thereafter.

The big picture: Trump has promised a “strong message on China.” Xi, meanwhile, is expected to laud global cooperation — with the clear implication that it can be led from Beijing.

Keep reading... Show less

Trump meets with Supreme Court frontrunner Amy Coney Barrett

President Trump met with Judge Amy Coney Barrett Monday afternoon at the White House, days before he is set to announce his pick to fill the Supreme Court seat vacated by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg, two sources familiar with meeting tell Axios.

Between the lines: Barrett, a U.S. circuit court judge who has long been seen within Trumpworld as the frontrunner on the president's short list, is known widely within the White House and well-liked.

Keep reading... Show less

Federal judge extends deadline for Wisconsin ballots postmarked by Election Day

A federal judge in Wisconsin on Monday extended the state's deadline for counting absentee ballots until up to six days after the Nov. 3 election if they are postmarked by Election Day, AP reports.

Why it matters: The ruling, unless overturned, "means that the outcome of the presidential race in Wisconsin likely will not be known for days after polls close," according to AP.

Keep reading... Show less

Trump's Supreme Court plans create major opportunity for Kamala Harris to go on offense

President Trump's Supreme Court plans have created a major opportunity for Sen. Kamala Harris to go on offense.

Why it matters: A confirmation fight puts Harris back in the spotlight thanks to her role on the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Keep reading... Show less

McConnell: Senate has "more than sufficient time" to process Supreme Court nomination

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said in a floor speech Monday that the chamber has "more than sufficient time" to confirm a replacement for Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg before the election, and accused Democrats of preparing "an even more appalling sequel" to the fight over Brett Kavanaugh's confirmation.

Why it matters: Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) has said "nothing is off the table next year" if Republicans push ahead with the confirmation vote before November, vowing alongside Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) to use "every procedural tool available to us to ensure that we buy ourselves the time necessary."

Keep reading... Show less

House Democrats file legislation to fund government through Dec. 11

House Democrats on Monday released their proposal for short-term legislation to fund the government through December 11.

Why it matters: This is Congress' chief legislative focus before the election. They must pass a continuing resolution (CR) before midnight on Oct. 1 to avoid a government shutdown — something both Hill leaders and the White House have claimed is off the table.

Keep reading... Show less



Get Goodhumans in your inbox

Most Read

More Stories