BORIS Johnson shrugged off a threat of legal action from Brussels over plans to rip up key parts of his Brexit divorce deal.
The EU has accused Britain of acting in bad faith and began the process of suing over the PM’s move to rewrite last year’s Withdrawal Agreement.
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If found to be in breach of EU rules the UK could face a bill running into the hundreds of millions — but such action could take years to pursue.
The legal threat comes after No10 ignored a midnight deadline set by Brussels to ditch controversial clauses from the Government’s Internal Market Bill that would overwrite parts of the 2019 deal.
EU bosses have been outraged by the incendiary legislation, which looks to rip up parts of the Irish border fix which Mr Johnson says would undermine the UK.
Commission President Urseula Von De Leyen said: “This draft bill is by its very nature a breach of the obligation of good faith laid down in the Withdrawal Agreement.”
Downing Street were nonplussed by the legal action — pointing out there are currently 800 such active proceedings underway across the continent.
Spain, Italy and even Germany have 200 such active cases against them, prompting ministers to dismiss yesterday’s legal letter from the EU as trade “negotiations posturing”.
The UK is currently facing 33 such threats from Brussels, compared to Spain’s 57, Italy’s 49 and Germany’s 47.
It typically takes two years before legal action against the UK reaches euro judges in Luxembourg.
And Brussels trade negotiator Michel Barnier has agreed with EU states to carry on with the trade talks even while suing the UK.
A UK Government spokesman said ministers will examine Mrs von der Leyen’s letter and respond “in due course”.
He added: “We have clearly set out our reasons for introducing the measures related to Northern Ireland.
“We need to create a legal safety net to protect the integrity of the UK’s internal market, ensure Ministers can always deliver on their obligations to Northern Ireland and protect the gains from the peace process.”
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The legal move was immediately backed by Ireland and France, which said the IM bill must be removed for trust to be restored in talks.
French Europe minister Clement Beaune also said Paris will refuse to ratify any trade deal while the controversial parts of the bill are still in place.
But Dutch PM Mark Rutte tried to cool the situation, saying the legal action was “a necessary administrative step” and not political threat.
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