Theresa May surrenders her Brexit red line on taking back control from EU judges

Jack Taylor/Getty ImagesChief negotiator for the European Union Michel Barnier (C) greets British Prime Minster Theresa May on arrival at the Council of the European Union on the final day of the European Council leaders’ summit on March 23, 2018 in Brussels, Belgium.
  • European Judges are set to have the final say on key aspects of Britain’s relationship with the EU after Brexit.
  • The UK government has reportedly agreed to let the European Court of Justice be the legal arbiter on issues relating to the Brexit bill and EU citizens living in the UK.
  • Pro-Brexit Conservative MPs described the agreement as “unacceptable.”
  • The UK government wants to speed up Brexit negotiations in order to avoid no deal.

LONDON – Theresa May has been accused of an “unacceptable” compromise to the European Union following reports that European judges will have the final say over areas of Britain’s future relationship with the EU after Brexit.

The UK government has agreed to let the European Court of Justice be the legal arbiter on issues relating to the £39 billion Brexit bill and the 3.8 million EU citizens residing in Britain,according to The Times.

This means that even once Britain has completely Brexit, the EU’s highest court, based in Luxembourg, will continue to have the final say on future disputes relating to two key aspects of the divorce.

In a draft text of the agreement, it says a joint committee of officials “may, at any point, decide to submit the dispute brought before it to the Court of Justice of the EU for a ruling,” even if resisted by UK-based courts.

The ECJ – which has one judge from each EU member state – will also have the final say on whether the Northern Irish backstop should be activated, meaning European judges could have the power to alter the UK territory.

Under the EU’s proposed backstop model, Northern Ireland will effectively remain in the customs union and single market for goods if Brexit trade talks fail to preserve the invisible border on the island of Ireland.

Pro-Brexit Conservative MP Bernard Jenkin described the reported agreement as “unacceptable.”

“This is very profound. It is giving a status to the European Court of Justice in the withdrawal agreement that is not accorded to the Supreme Court in the United Kingdom,” the MP for Harwich and North Essex said.

A spokesperson for the prime minister told Business Insider: “I don’t recognise that. The Prime Minister set out our position in September… Obviously, these are ongoing negotiations.”

In her early speeches on Brexit, May repeatedly pledged to end the ECJ’s sway over the UK after Brexit.

“We will not have truly left the European Union if we are not in control of our own laws,” the prime minister declared in her Lancaster House speech in January 2017.

However, May has gradually rowed back on this red line as Brexit talks have progressed. For example, European agencies which she wants Britain to continue participating in are policed by the ECJ. Additionally, under her Chequers plan, the ECJ will have the final word on cases relating to EU trading rules which the UK has agreed to follow.

Brexit talks are set to resume in mid-August and then continue every week leading up to the October European Council summit, a senior EU source told BI.

Both sides must reach an agreement on the Northern Irish backstop in order to secure a Withdrawal Agreement by early next year and avoid the disruption of a no-deal scenario.

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