LONDON – Negotiators from Britain and the European Union met Monday to seek a breakthrough in gridlocked trade talks, with just days until a deadline to strike a post-Brexit deal.
As EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier met his British counterpart, David Frost, in London, members of Britain's House of Lords were trying to rip up a contentious Brexit bill that threatens to derail negotiations.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has infuriated the EU with a bill that breaches parts of the legally binding withdrawal agreement that allowed for Britain’s exit from the bloc in January. The Internal Market Bill gives the U.K. power to override sections of the agreement dealing with Northern Ireland trade.
The U.K. acknowledges that the bill breaches international law, and the legislation has been condemned by the EU, U.S. President-elect Joe Biden and scores of British lawmakers, including many from Johnson’s Conservative Party.
On Monday members of Parliament’s upper chamber, the House of Lords, slammed the bill, ahead of a vote that is likely to remove the law-breaking clauses from the legislation.
Michael Howard, a former Conservative Party leader who now sits in the Lords, said he was “dismayed” by the government’s behavior.
“I voted and campaigned for Brexit, and I do not for one moment regret or resile from that vote,” he said. “But I want the independent sovereign state that I voted for to be a country that holds its head up high in the world, that keeps its word, that upholds the rule of law and that honors its treaty obligations.”
Charlie Falconer, who served as justice minister in a previous Labour government, said the bill was making the U.K. an “international pariah.”