On Saturday, Boris Johnson urged Conservative MPs to back his plan to override part of last year’s Brexit withdrawal agreement. In a Zoom call with around 250 of them, he said the party must not return to “miserable squabbling” over Europe. Meanwhile, the EU has warned the UK it could face legal action if it does not ditch controversial elements of the Internal Market Bill by the end of the month.
And the European Parliament has threatened to scupper any UK-EU trade deal if the bill becomes UK law.
The two sides have less than five weeks to agree a deal before Mr Johnson’s 15 October deadline – after which he says he is prepared to “walk away”.
Informal talks are due to resume today, with the next official round of talks – the ninth since March – starting in Brussels on September 28.
Neither side is expecting a breakthrough, though.
As tensions are set to rise in the incoming days, unearthed reports suggest the reason Mr Johnson might be pushing for a safeguards clause: as both an insurance, and a deterrent.
According to 2020 book “Remaking One Nation: The Future of Conservatism” written by former No10 adviser Nick Timothy, there are plenty of warning signs to alert Britain not to rely on blind trust, particularly because Brussels has blatantly broken rules in the past.
For example, in September 2017, former Prime Minister Theresa May decided that she would have to invoke Article 50 in order to start talks with Brussels.
On the opening day of the Conservative Party conference, she announced she would trigger by no later than the end of March 2017.
She promised to repeal the European Communities Act, which gave direct effect to EU law in Britain.
She said: “We will do what independent, sovereign countries do.
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“We will decide for ourselves how we control immigration. And we will be free to pass our own laws.”
Mr Timothy wrote: “Later, it was claimed that this speech set unnecessary red lines that made the Brexit negotiations impossible.
“It was even claimed that the red lines were invented by Theresa and me alone, with no input from anybody else.
“Both claims are ridiculous.
“First, Brexit policy was discussed at Cabinet, in the Cabinet sub-committee, and in bilateral meetings between Theresa and her ministers.
“No Cabinet Secretary, and certainly not one as experienced and as proper as Sir Jeremy Heywood, would have allowed new policy to be decided and announced in such a manner.
“And second, as any student of the European Union knows, the EU was established, in its original form, as a customs union.
“Its single market then developed over time.”
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After Mrs May’s speech, former President of the European Council Donald Tusk warned Britain of economic consequences if the former Prime Minister stuck to her Brexit red lines and left both the single market and customs union.
Mr Tusk said he fully understood Mrs May’s “political objective to demonstrate at any price that Brexit could be a success” but added, “sorry, it’s not our objective”.
Moreover, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier told the former Prime Minister she must “adapt” her red lines to gain a good trade deal for Britain.
He also appeared to signal a tough line on the European Court of Justice continuing to have judicial oversight over the final Brexit agreement.
He said: “Without an agreement on governance, there is no credibility of this treaty for stakeholders, for business.”
Mr Timothy added: “If Britain did not leave the customs union and single market – and the laws and institutions that underpin both – what would we be leaving?
“As David Davis said to me at the time, the speech was little more than ‘a statement of the bleeding obvious’.
“And as Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal proved, it is possible to leave the EU in full accordance with the so-called ‘red lines’.”