The drama has ramped up again in the Brexit talks. At today’s meeting of the Joint Committee on the Northern Ireland protocol, the EU demanded an explanation from the UK side of what was going on with the Internal Market bill. The UK argued that its clauses on Northern Ireland were needed as a safety net and to guarantee the peace process. The EU were not persuaded by this argument; and have demanded that these clauses are dropped from the bill by the end of the month.
The EU statement is not explicit about what will happen if the clauses aren’t dropped. But the pretty clear implication is that the trade talks would likely be called off at that point.
It is hard to see a way through this row. This Downing Street has no intention of backing down on the bill, but nor will the EU accept the UK not implementing the withdrawal agreement as signed, especially given that the British government has admitted that the proposed legislation breaks international law.
The only route through this crisis appears to be either a breakthrough in the joint committee or in the future trade talks which would render the Northern Ireland clauses of the bill unnecessary.