EU takes legal action against UK over breaching Northern Ireland Protocol

EU Commission to bring case to EU court if UK fails to explain shortfalls on applying EU rules

BRUSSELS

The European Union launched on Wednesday legal action against the United Kingdom for breaching the Northern Ireland Protocol of the Brexit deal.

The European Commission decided to relaunch an infringement procedure that has been put on hold since last July and initiate two new proceedings against the UK for failing to comply with its obligations under the protocol, Maros Sefcovic, the EU executive body’s vice president, announced at a news conference.

On one hand, the European Commission will reopen the infringement procedure that started last March and was suspended four months later in the context of the so-called sausage war.

In this case, the EU accuses the UK of unilaterally extending the grace period for allowing the export of certain goods from the rest of the UK.

On the other hand, the EU executive body will start two new infringement procedures against the UK for failing to carry out its obligations under the EU’s sanitary and phytosanitary rules.

According to the bloc, the UK does not carry out the necessary training and does not ensure adequate infrastructure and border control personnel, and it does not provide the EU with certain trade statistics data in respect of Northern Ireland as required in the Protocol.

If the UK fails to provide an acceptable answer for these shortfalls within two months, the European Commission will take the case to the EU Court of Justice as the next step of the infringement procedure.

The announcement came after the British government revealed on Monday a bill that would allow disapplying important parts of the Northern Ireland Protocol by removing checks on a variety of goods transported to Northern Ireland from the rest of the UK.

The EU considers the draft as a breach of international law since it lays the ground for London to unilaterally disapply an agreement that has been signed by both parties.

The EU and the UK have been in a dispute for years over the application of the Northern Ireland Protocol of the Brexit agreement which established a special trade regime.

To avoid a hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland in respect of the Good Friday Agreement, parties agreed that Northern Ireland would remain a part of the EU’s customs regime and the UK would apply customs checks.

The UK left the EU after 47 years of membership on Jan. 31, 2020.

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