The UK has declined to say it will withdraw legislation that breaches the Northern Ireland Protocol, according to a vice-president of the European Commission following a key meeting of EU and UK officials today.
Maroš Šefčovič, the EU's representative on the EU-UK Joint Committee, said he had repeated the EU's insistence that the legislation be withdrawn.
However, he told reporters that he was given "no indication" from his opposite number Michael Gove that the UK was prepared to withdraw the contentious elements of the Internal Market Bill.
Mr Šefčovič would not be drawn on whether the EU will take legal action against the UK if the legislation is not withdrawn by Wednesday of this week, the deadline set by Mr Šefčovič earlier this month.
Asked if legal action would be triggered if the UK failed to meet the deadline, Mr Šefčovič told reporters: "I reminded the UK government that the Withdrawal Agreement contains a number of mechanisms and legal remedies to address the violation of the legal obligations contained in the text.
"The EU will not be shy in using them. When we will do it, how we will proceed, you will have to give us a little bit of time and will inform you in due course."
He said that full trust between both sides would not be restored unless the UK withdrew the controversial clauses in the Internal Market Bill.
The Commission vice-president said the EU side had told the UK delegation during the Joint Committee meeting in Brussels that time was running out for the UK to complete the infrastructure and IT systems needed to ensure the Protocol could take effect on 1 January, when the Brexit transition period comes to an end.
Under the Withdrawal Agreement, the UK is obliged to implement checks and controls on goods moving between Great Britain and Northern Ireland from 1 January.
The Joint Committee is tasked with implementing and, where possible, simplifying such checks.
Mr Šefčovič said: "Much work needs to be done before the transition period ends in fewer than 100 days.
"The window of opportunity to put in place the operational measures needed for it to function is rapidly closing."
He warned that the UK was "far apart" from what the EU could accept, when it came to ensuring checks and controls could happen at Northern Ireland ports.
He said the Withdrawl Agreement was to be "implemented, not to be renegotiated, let along unilaterally changed, disregarded or disapplied."
The Internal Market Bill would give a UK minister the power to override elements of the Protocol, such as the need for exit summary declarations on goods moving between Northern Ireland and the UK, and for the UK government to unilaterally decide which goods moving in the opposite direction would be deemed "at risk" of crossing the border, and therefore subject to tariffs on entering the North.
Mr Šefčovič said the EU had been working with the UK on attempting to address its concerns on these issues.
He said both sides had agreed that there should be a meeting of the Specialised Sub-committee, which deals with the technical work of the Protocol, should meet in "early October" and that its work should feed into another Joint Committee meeting by the middle of the month.
In a statement issued after the meeting, the UK government said: "The UK reiterated that the measures set out in the United Kingdom Internal Market Bill are designed to create a 'safety net' to ensure the communities of Northern Ireland are protected. The UK is clear that those measures would not be withdrawn.
"The UK remains committed to ongoing constructive engagement with the EU through further Joint Committee meetings and looks forward to making progress on all issues."
Meanwhile, the EU rebuffed attempts by the British government to intensify and accelerate negotiations in order to reach a future trade agreement by mid-October, RTÉ News understands.
The ninth round of future relationship negotiations gets underway tomorrow in Brussels, with both sides at odds over the prospects for a breakthrough.
Late last week Downing Street briefed journalists that there was growing optimism about progress in the future relationship negotiations, with just weeks of talks remaining.
It is understood that during informal discussions the UK's chief negotiator David Frost pushed his opposite number Michel Barnier for the process to enter, as soon as possible, the so-called tunnel, the final period of sealed negotiations preceding a future relationship treaty.
However, two senior sources have told RTÉ News that Mr Barnier refused to agree to such an intensification for two reasons.
First, the EU believes the UK has still not made sufficient concessions on the so-called level playing field, including the question of state aid, and fisheries.
Secondly, Brussels believes the deadline is the end of October, not 14 October, the deadline that British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has set, which is when EU leaders will meet for a summit.
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