Earlier this week, the House of Commons in Westminster passed the Internal Markets Bill, a law that asserts British sovereignty over sovereign British territory. Fairly uncontroversial, right? Downright tautological, even.
Not according to the European Union. As I wrote about here, the British government made an ill-advised decision last year to sign on to a very bad Withdrawal Agreement with the European Union. The text of this agreement allowed the EU to economically annex Northern Ireland, one of the four constituent nations of the United Kingdom, and to keep it under the European customs and regulation regime. The EU’s pretense for demanding Northern Ireland as their pound of flesh during Brexit negotiations was that a fluid and permeable border between Northern Ireland and the Republic is impossible otherwise. The consequent erection of border infrastructure would, we are told, risk a flare-up of the horrific violence that has ravaged the island of Ireland since the United Kingdom was partitioned in 1921. The contention that only European control of Northern Ireland is necessary for avoiding a hard border is false, as the EU itself has admitted. But it’s a politically useful story to tell in order to gain leverage over the U.K. during negotiations.
Discovering that such a situation is in fact wholly unworkable for a fully independent and sovereign nation, the British government passed the Internal Markets Bill. As the U.K.’s Northern Ireland minister Brandon Lewis has admitted, the bill violates the Withdrawal Agreement by reclaiming British sovereignty over Northern Ireland.
Needless to say, the EU is not pleased by this turn of events. They served Boris Johnson’s government with a “letter of formal notice” this week that could eventually lead to a case against the British government being brought at the European Court of Justice.
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