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Photo: Thierry Monasse/Getty Images

The European Union's chief executive on Thursday initiated legal proceedings against the U.K. over Prime Minister Boris Johnson's plans to break international law to override parts of the Brexit deal the two sides struck last year.

Why it matters: It's a sign of a major breakdown in the U.K.-EU relationship and deals a blow to the odds of the two sides successfully negotiating a free trade agreement before the Brexit transition period expires at the end of the year. Investors and trade experts fear a "no-deal" Brexit on Dec. 31 could cause massive economic disruptions.

The state of play: The letter of "formal notice" gives Johnson a month to make changes to his proposed internal market bill, which the U.K. government admitted breaks international law "in a very specific and limited way," before the matter reaches European courts.

  • The bill as it stands would allow U.K. ministers to unilaterally determine which goods should be subject to EU checks and tariffs when passing from Great Britain to Northern Ireland, which shares a land border with the Republic of Ireland (an EU member).
  • The House of Commons passed the bill this week in spite of a small rebellion by members of Johnson's party and condemnation by all five living former U.K. prime ministers. It now faces resistance in the upper House of Lords.

Go deeper: Brexit threatens to become a constitutional crisis

Go deeper

U.K. abolishes tax on menstrual products

Photo: Jack Taylor/Getty Images

The United Kingdom's abolishment of a tax on menstrual products goes in effect today, according to a release from the government.

Why it matters: The repeal is among the first acts the U.K. is taking as part of its formal separation from the European Union because EU law prevents member nations from reducing the value-added tax on menstrual products below 5% because they are considered "luxury items."

2 hours ago - World

Biden seeks to reboot U.S. sanctions policy

Sanctions increased under Obama and dramatically under Trump. Photo: Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call

The Biden administration is rethinking the U.S. approach to sanctions after four years of Donald Trump imposing and escalating them.

The big picture: Sanctions are among the most powerful tools the U.S. has to influence its adversaries’ behavior without using force. But they frequently fail to bring down regimes or moderate their behavior, and they can increase the suffering of civilians and resentment of the U.S.

2 hours ago - World

Merkel's farewell spoiled by Poland crisis at EU summit

One last awkward EU "family photo." Photo: John Thys/AFP via Getty Images

Angela Merkel took up her vaunted mantle as Europe's crisis manager for what could be the last time tonight, as she urged the EU to find compromise in its showdown with Poland.

Why it matters: The European Commission has threatened to withhold over $40 billion in pandemic recovery funds after Poland's constitutional tribunal — stacked with loyalists from the ruling right-wing populist party — rejected the principle that EU law has primacy over national law.