Britain will seek to use treaty breaching powers if EU acts in bad faith

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain will ask parliament for permission to use powers which breach its Withdrawal Agreement with Brussels if it decides the European Union has not acted in good faith in talks on a trade deal, the government said.

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Britain also made a new commitment to, at the same time as acting unilaterally, trying to solve any row with the EU through the treaty’s own dispute resolution mechanism.

Talks to agree a trade deal and future relationship with the EU are on a knife edge after years of wrangling, with just months until a transition deal ends, endangering nearly $1 trillion(771.13 billion pounds) of trade.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson is attempting to pass new laws ensuring free trade between Britain’s nations, but says to do that he needs the power to override parts of the EU divorce deal agreed with Brussels last year relating to Northern Ireland.

Ministers have admitted this breaks international law, prompting a demand from the EU to withdraw the plan by the end of the month, and a threat from some in Johnson’s party to rebel arguing it would damage Britain’s international standing.

On Wednesday, Johnson reached a compromise with some rebels, promising to consult parliament before using the powers.

On Thursday, the government said in a statement it would ask for parliament’s permission to use them if it decided the EU was “engaged in a material breach of its duties of good faith or other obligations, and thereby undermining the fundamental purpose of the Northern Ireland Protocol”.

The statement set out several examples, including if the bloc imposed unfair tariffs on goods travelling from Britain into Northern Ireland or insisted on export declarations on goods moving in the opposite direction.

The government would activate the formal dispute settlement mechanisms with the EU.

“(Government) confirms that in parallel with the use of these provisions it would always activate appropriate formal dispute settlement mechanisms with the aim of finding a solution through this route,” it said.

The full statement can be found here: here

Reporting by William James, editing by Andy Bruce, Elizabeth Piper, Alexandra Hudson