"If indeed there is no deal, the first day of the Portuguese presidency will be the day of dealing with the problem of Brexit, but we will wait until 31 December," Costa said in statements to journalists after a series of meetings with European Commissioners.

"But I hope that a country like the United Kingdom will not fail to set an example of what should be the normal relationship in global societies, which is respect for the rule of law, for treaty rules and for the fundamental principle that treaties are meant to be fulfilled," he said.

The UK government today defended its proposed law annulling parts of the 'Brexit' agreement and said it would respond 'in due course' to formal notifications that the EU had initiated infringement proceedings.

"We will respond to the letter (sent by the European Commission) in due course. We have already clearly detailed our reasons for introducing the measures relating to the Northern Ireland Protocol," said a British Government spokesman.

According to the same source, the Government wants "to create a network of legal certainty to protect the integrity of the UK domestic market, to ensure that Ministers can always fulfil their obligations in Northern Ireland and to protect progress in the peace process".

The European Commission today decided to open infringement proceedings against the United Kingdom over a controversial draft law which partially nullifies the European Union (EU) Exit Agreement.