Spotlight on the European Commission’s launch of infringement proceedings against the UK for the UK Internal Market Bill

Spotlight on the European Commission’s launch of infringement proceedings against the UK for the UK Internal Market Bill

On 1 October 2020, the European Commission sent a ‘letter of formal notice’ to the UK, commencing a formal infringement procedure against the UK in respect of the United Kingdom Internal Market Bill.  The European Commission alleges that the UK government’s introduction of the UK Internal Market Bill and its failure ‘to withdraw the contentious parts of the Bill’ is in and of itself a breach of Article 5 of the Withdrawal Agreement.  Article 5 requires the EU and the UK ‘in full mutual respect and good faith’ to ‘assist each other in carrying out tasks which flow from [the] Agreement’.  The Commission also alleges that, if the Bill is adopted, it would ‘impede the implementation of the Withdrawal Agreement'. Laura Rees-Evans of Fietta LLP looks in detail at the European Commission’s launch of infringement proceedings against the UK for the UK Internal Market Bill.

A UK government spokesperson has said that the UK will ‘respond…in due course’, but that it is necessary for the UK ‘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’.

Infringement proceedings are an administrative process of EU law through which the European Commission ‘identifies possible infringements of EU law’ and requests (EU) countries to take measures to rectify their non-compliance with EU law.  Ultimately, the European Commission may refer alleged infringements to the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU).  According to the Commission, however, ‘[m]ost cases are settled before being referred to the court’.  As at 1 December 2019, there were 800 pending infringement proceedings, 33 of which involved the UK (see here). 

Readers will recall that this is not the first infringement procedure the Commission has launched against the UK during the Brexit transition period.  The Commission also launched an infringement procedure against the UK in May 2020, for its decision not to sign the multilateral treaty terminating intra-EU BITs (see our Brexit highlights of 

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About the author:
Laura is Counsel at Fietta LLP, a leading boutique law firm dedicated to public international law and international arbitration. Her practice focuses on contentious and non-contentious aspects of public international law  and international arbitration.