BRUSSELS — The 27 European Union nations presented a firmly united front to the U.K. on Friday after the British government said it plans to violate part of their Brexit divorce agreement, warning London that there was little chance of a new trade deal unless the U.K. reverses course.
The European Parliament's lead lawmaker on Brexit said that even if a free trade agreement is struck, the EU legislature will refuse to ratify it unless Britain drops a proposal to override parts of the legally binding withdrawal agreement.
"Should the U.K. breach the withdrawal agreement, the European Parliament won't ratify a future agreement between the European Union and the United Kingdom," said David McAllister, a German politician who heads the European Parliament's U.K.-EU coordination group.
McAllister said the British bill was "a serious and unacceptable breach of international law."
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson's plan to alter provisions in the EU divorce deal has put already bogged-down talks on a future trade deal into an even deeper rut.
"We are remaining firm, we are remaining calm," McAllister told The Associated Press after a meeting of the European Parliament's U.K. committee. "But it's not easy to negotiate our future relations under these threatening circumstances."
EU leaders have expressed anger and bafflement at the U.K's announcement that it will breach an international treaty with a bill that would diminish the EU's oversight of trade between mainland Britain and Northern Ireland.
"We have never in recent history -- or, maybe in ancient history dealing with other countries -- seen such a renegement on an agreement," said Ireland's Europe minister, Thomas Byrne.
Leaders of the bloc vowed to stand together as time runs short to find a smooth economic transition before Britain leaves the EU's economic structures on Dec. 31.
A no-deal Brexit on Jan. 1 would hit some EU nations, including Ireland, France, Belgium and the Netherlands especially hard. But none were ready to make concessions to U.K. demands, which the EU views as seeking free access to the EU market while refusing to guarantee fair
"We will never accept any kind of decision that might weaken or jeopardize the European single market, French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said.
"We have made very clear that all European countries remain united and strong," he added.