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EU begins authorized motion towards the UK after it approves controversial Brexit invoice

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A British Union flag, also known as a Union Jack, right, flies with other European Union (EU) member state flags outside the European Parliament in Brussels, Belgium, on Thursday, Jan. 30, 2020.

Bloomberg

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen on Thursday said it had sent a letter of formal notice to the U.K. over its plan to override the Brexit divorce deal, marking the first step in legal proceedings.   

It comes after U.K. lawmakers approved Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s controversial Internal Market Bill earlier this week, despite some ministers admitting the legislation could lead to the country breaching international law.

The U.K. has said the proposed legislation, which now requires the approval of the House of Lords, will protect the integrity of the U.K. The bill would allow ministers to unilaterally amend elements of the  country’s Withdrawal Agreement with the EU.

It has amplified divisions between the U.K. and Europe, threatening to scupper trade talks during the post-Brexit transition period.

“If adopted as is, it will be in full contradiction to the protocol of Ireland-Northern Ireland,” Von der Leyen said in a televised statement.

The head of the EU’s executive arm said it had given Britain until the end of September to remove “problematic parts” of the Internal Market Bill, but the deadline had now lapsed and the provisions remained. 

“Therefore, this morning the Commission has decided to send a letter of formal notice to the U.K. government. This is the first step in an infringement procedure.”

The U.K. government will have a month to reply with its “observations,” von der Leyen said. “Besides this, the Commission will continue to work hard towards a full and timely implementation of the Withdrawal Agreement. We stand by our commitments.”

This is a breaking news story and will be updated shortly.

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Katherine Clark