EU member states will block the signing of a Brexit trade agreement if Boris Johnson pushes ahead with his plan to break international law, the Irish government has said.
Speaking on Sunday foreign minister Simon Coveney warned that there was “no way” the bloc would ratify a free trade agreement while the UK was breaking a previous deal signed less than a year ago.
The UK government is currently facing legal action from the European Commission over the prime minister’s Internal Market Bill, which seeks to use domestic law to overwrite the Brexit withdrawal agreement.
The bill would make it illegal to impose controls on trade between Northern Ireland and Great Britain – a key part of the hard-won agreement signed by Boris Johnson at the start of the year.
Ministers have admitted their policy breaks international law, though they say it is acceptable because it does so in a “limited and specific” way. The House of Lords this week defeated the government to amend the bill and remove the offending clauses, but Downing Street has pledged to re-insert them.
“Even if we do get a new trade deal negotiated on both sides, if the British government is determined to continue with their internal market bill, to reintroduce parts of that bill that were removed by the House of Lords this week, then I think this is a deal that won’t be ratified by the EU,” Mr Coveney told Sky News.
“Because there’s no way the EU will agree to ratify a new agreement if the British government is breaking the existing agreement that is not 12 months old and breaking international law by doing that. So there are real obstacles to getting this deal done.”
For member states to refuse to ratify a trade deal, one would first have to be signed. There has been little progress in talks this week despite a pledge to “intensify” negotiations and a looming mid-November deadline.
After a fruitless session in London ending on Friday, and a break to take stock over the weekend, both teams are set to meet in Brussels next week for what could be the last round.
Mr Coveney described a trade deal as overall “doable” and said he hoped the negotiating teams would find “a compromise we can both live with”.
Negotiators are stick on issues ranging from fishing rights to ensuing fair competition, with governance of the deal also proving a problem.
The UK will leave the single market and customs union on 31 December after the Brexit transition period ends. Disruption is expected, particularly if no trade deal is signed.