Brexit row: EU resorts to legal action

The EU has launched legal action against the UK after London failed to meet its ultimatum to withdraw its controversial Internal Market Bill. If signed into law the bill would override key sections of the existing Brexit Withdrawal Agreement with Brussels. Europe's press is divided on whether this will escalate the tensions or whether it is just a formality.

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Corriere della Sera (IT) /

Just a formality

The proceedings were inevitable and what matters now is that an agreement is reached on the key sticking points, writes London correspondent Luigi Ippolito in Corriere della Sera:

“Brussels had instructed London to withdraw the bill by 30 September. This was not done, and so the legal process has begun. ... It was practically an obligation. Now the important thing is to understand the consequences for the ongoing negotiations. ... The two main points of contention are fishing rights and state aid, both of which the British want to withdraw from the control of European competition restrictions in order to boost its own national champions in high technology industries. ... Brussels, on the other hand, wants to keep London in the general orbit of European regulations to prevent unfair competition, while the British now see themselves as a completely sovereign third country.”

The Daily Telegraph (GB) /

We won't be intimidated by Brussels

The EU has done the British government a favour, The Daily Telegraph comments:

“Little puts the backs of the British public up more than being lectured to by an unelected Eurocrat. For the UK Government the optics of this row escalating into a high-profile stand-off in November would be beneficial in the battle for the hearts and minds of the public. It would be a perfect illustration of why Brexit is such an important step, distilling the argument down to the essential matter of national sovereignty. The EU would be seeking to retain sway over an integral part of the UK despite our democratic decision to end our membership.”

Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (DE) /

It's up to Johnson

Despite everything the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung refuses to give up hope:

“Yes, the shadows over the current talks are ... long; they needn't have become even longer. ... But this is not (yet) the end. There are areas in which both sides can show flexibility. But above all, it is up to the Johnson government to show what it considers more important: the final break with the EU, which would inevitably inflict additional high costs - very high costs - on the country's economy, or a sensible economic and therefore political partnership based on trust and, by extension, compliance with agreements. Such a partnership, now that the UK has left, would be the best option for the future.”

La Vanguardia (ES) /

It takes two to negotiate

Whether the EU's double strategy of pressure and negotiation will work is still uncertain at this stage, La Vanguardia comments:

“This precedent raises doubts about whether Johnson would stick to a trade agreement with Brussels if it were to come about. The problem is more political than legal. London has one month left to take action, and Brussels believes that the pressure on Johnson will increase in these weeks because of the perception that Britain can't afford not to reach an agreement. This is why even though it has launched legal proceedings, Brussels is counting on pragmatism and further negotiations. But two can't negotiate if one doesn't want to, and whether Johnson wants to remains to be seen.”