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Top eurocrat Maros Sefcovic insisted the European Union would not walk away from the negotiations despite earlier this month giving Downing Street until Wednesday to ditch the proposed Brexit Bill. But the European Commission vice-president said the bloc would not drop its plans to haul Boris Johnson in front European judges over alleged breaches to last year’s Withdrawal Agreement. In an amicable Brussels meeting, the EU official vowed to work with Michael Gove to alleviate concerns that the Northern Ireland border protocol could create a border between the province and Great Britain.
In a news conference after today’s meeting, Mr Sefcovic admitted the deadline he set No10 would pass without any action taken against the Government.
He said: “I think it’s very important to say, to underline, that it could never be the EU which would call the end of the negotiations on the future partnership between the EU and UK.”
Mr Sefcovic pledged to use the remaining time before the end of Britain’s transition from EU rules to end the row over the divorce pact.
The EU official said he hoped answers to Britain’s concerns over the Northern Ireland border fix could be found through the future relationship talks.
“We know there is a huge responsible upon our shoulders, and we will use every opportunity, every minute, out of negotiating time, not only to agree and fine an ambitious agreement for the partnership between the EU and the UK, but also properly and timely implement the Withdrawal Agreement,” Mr Sefcovic said.
Despite his amicable discussion with Mr Gove, the EU vice-president insisted his counterpart of the Joint Committee had not offered enough assurances over the UK’s Internal Market Bill.
Mr Sefcovic told reporters the EU would “not be shy in using” carrying out legal action unless the legislation is amended.
He added: “When we will do it, how we will do it – proceed, you will have to give us a little bit of time and we will inform you.”
Speaking after the meeting, Mr Gove insisted Brussels should not be worried about the Government’s Brexit Bill.
The Cabinet Office minister also vowed to use “every second, every minute, every hour” to find a compromise with the bloc to protect Northern Ireland’s place in the UK.
He said: “We are committed to using every moment available – every second, every minute, every hour – in order to reach an agreement, and I am confident that we will.”
He added: “There have been those in the European Union who have been concerned about the clauses that we have put into the UK Internal Market Bill, but I was able to stress today – as I have in the House of Commons – that these clauses are a safety net.
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“We want to reach agreement in the Joint Committee, we want to make sure that the position of Northern Ireland is secure in the United Kingdom, we want to ensure the Withdrawal Agreement is implemented in full. But those clauses are there, they are in legislation, supported by the House of Commons, as a safety net, if need be, and those clauses will remain in that bill.”
The pair agreed to intensify their negotiations with less than 100 days until the post-Brexit transition period expires at the end of the year.
Meanwhile European Council chief Charles Michel claimed Britain faces the EU’s “quiet strength” in maintaining the bloc’s standards.
In a speech to a Brussels think-tank, the EU’s top official said: “The truth is, the British face a dilemma.
“What model of society do they want? Do they prefer to maintain high quality standards? Or, on the contrary, do they want lower standards, subject their breeders and their businesses to unfair and unjust competition from other regions of the world?
“It is the answer to this question that will determine the level of access to our internal market.”
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