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Brexit: Germany's EU minister asks UK to ‘stop the games’ over Internal Market Bill

Jill Petzinger
·Germany Correspondent, Yahoo Finance UK
·3-min read
Minister of State for Europe at the German Federal Foreign Office Michael Roth gives a statement for the media, prior to a video conference of the European Union's General Affairs Council, at the foreign ministry in Berlin, Germany June 16, 2020. Markus Schreiber/Pool via REUTERS
Michael Roth, minister of state for Europe, at the German Federal Foreign Office in Berlin. Photo: Markus Schreiber/Reuters

Germany’s minister of state for Europe, Michael Roth, has appealed to the British government to stop its plans to push through an internal market bill that would mean the country breaking international law.

“Please, dear friends in London, stop the games, time is running out, what we really need is a fair basis for further negotiations and we are ready for that,” Roth said ahead of a meeting of EU ministers in Brussels on Tuesday.

Roth said he was extremely worried about the Internal Market Bill. The bill would mean the UK overrides agreements laid out in its withdrawal treaty with the EU — and therefore breaks international law.

“The so-called internal market bill extremely worries us because it violates the guiding principles of the withdrawal agreement,” Roth said. “And that is totally unacceptable for us.”

EU commission vice-president Maros Sefcovic said the EU “will not be renegotiating” the Withdrawal Agreement. He added that the EU sees itself as obligated to "a complete and timely implementation" of the exit treaty.

READ MORE: No-deal Brexit 'final nail in the coffin' for UK manufacturers

The UK parliament passed the Internal Market Bill by a majority of 77 votes on Monday (14 September). Critics, including those from prime minister Boris Johnson’s Conservative party, say the bill allows UK to renege on key parts of the Withdrawal Agreement signed with the EU last year.

In particular, it overrides the Northern Ireland protocol, which requires the island of Ireland to follow EU standards in a no-deal Brexit scenario. The bill, they say, threatens the Good Friday Agreement and will seriously damage Britain’s standing on the world stage, as it would mean Britain was breaking international law.

Five former prime ministers have spoken out against the deal. John Major and Tony Blair made a rare joint intervention, writing an opinion piece in the Sunday Times that urged MPs to reject the bill.

However, the bill is facing another vote in the UK parliament on an amendment put forward by Bob Neil, the Conservative chair of the justice select committee. It would require parliamentary approval before any future decision could be made by the government to disapply the terms of the Northern Ireland protocol in the Withdrawal Agreement.

READ MORE: Brits living in EU could lose their UK bank accounts within weeks

Meanwhile, on Sunday, The Times reported that some British banks are contacting expats living in the EU, telling them that they will no longer be able to service them after 31 December, as the “passport” system that allowed them to operate everywhere in the EU will no longer exist and banks must face the complex and costly prospect of having to apply for banking licences in individual EU countries.

Financial regulation is also in the spotlight after the UK leaves the bloc. The Financial Conduct authority’s interim chief executive said this week that Britain’s regulators face “painful lessons” in the near future. “We will see the results of a number of reviews into potential failures of the regulatory system,” Christopher Woolard said at an event.

Watch: What is a no-deal Brexit and what are the potential consequences?