Mr Francois, chairman of the European Research Group (ERG), sought to lay down the law in a “Missive from a Free Country” sent to Mr Barnier on June 26, in which he demanded Brussels “change some of the unreasonable demands that the EU is currently making”. Specifically, he stressed there was no way the European Court of Justice could have any role in “the UK’s national life” after the end of the year. Mr Barnier has now replied in a letter taking issue with a number of Mr Francois’ points.
He pointed out political declaration ratified by Parliament does allocate a role to the ECJ as part of arrangements for Northern Ireland – the so-called Northern Ireland protocol.
The political declaration, he added, had been “agreed by your Prime Minister and voted for by the House of Commons, including yourself, as part of the Withdrawal Agreement ratification”.
Mr Barnier also took the time to acknowledge the existence of the ERG, a likely response to a passage in Mr Francois’s letter in which he said: “It is possible that you may have heard of us”.
He said: “I have over the past years met British politicians representing the entire spectrum of views on Brexit, including the European Research Group, which you chair.”
He also took a subtle swipe at Mr Francois’s reference to living in a free country while lamenting the UK’s decision to quit the bloc, writing: “In this same spirit, we approach the ongoing negotiations with your great – and indeed free – country, which will remain a close friend, neighbour and ally of the European Union.”
8.05 update: Sturgeon threatens to reject Boris Johnson’s new law in EU clash
Westminster and Holyrood are on track for the biggest constitutional showdown since the EU referendum as Nicola Sturgeon’s government have threatened to block a major post-Brexit law.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and her Scottish National Party are prepared to stand in the way of a law which would give the UK Government the power to set food and environmental standards following the nation’s exit from the bloc.
Michael Russell, SNP cabinet secretary for constitutional affairs, told the Financial Times the SNP would take Westminster to court if it was given the power to force Scotland to accept new standards on food, environmental and animal welfare.
Mr Russell said: “We do not accept that this is a legitimate way of operating within devolution.