15 March 2021 | UK NEWS
The EU has commenced legal proceedings against the UK due to an alleged breach of the Northern Ireland Protocol.
The UK Government stands accused of breaking the UK-EU trade deal by unilaterally delaying the introduction of new sea border checks on food, parcels and pets between Northern Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom.
The EU and UK had agreed to enter a grace period, with Northern Ireland remaining in the Single Market until 1 April in order to resolve any issues arising from border processes. The UK unilaterally decided to extend this until 1 October.
The EU sent a formal notice to the UK arguing that the UK breached “substantive provisions of the Protocol on Ireland and Northern Ireland, as well as the good faith obligation under the Withdrawal Agreement”.
The European Union has said that it hopes the matter can be resolved without further legal action. The European Commission’s vice president Maroš Šefčovič said that the EU would prefer “collaborative, pragmatic and constructive” political discussions over the law courts.
However, he also said of the Protocol: “Unilateral decisions and international law violations by the UK defeat its very purpose and undermine trust between us. The UK must properly implement it if we are to achieve our objectives.”
The results of the legal action could mean that the UK would be forced to defend itself in the European Court of Justice.
The UK has been given a month to respond to the letter. According to the EU, failure to do so would mean that “the EU may provide written notice to commence consultations under Article 169 of the Withdrawal Agreement, as a first step in the Dispute Settlement Mechanism process set out in Title III of Part Six of the Withdrawal Agreement”.
However, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said that the UK had taken actions that were “temporary and technical measures that we think are very sensible”.
He added: “The Protocol is there to uphold and guarantee, to buttress the Good Friday Agreement and the peace process.”
He said it was “very important the wishes and consent of both communities in Northern Ireland are properly reflected in the outcome and that it should guarantee trade and movement, not just north-south but east-west as well”.
Northern Ireland First Minister Arlene Foster said the legal action was “further proof that Brussels is closing its eyes to the serious problems the Protocol has caused for Northern Ireland”.
“Rather than showing concern for stability in Northern Ireland or respect for the principle of consent, Brussels is foolishly and selfishly focused on protecting its own bloc.
“Not one single unionist party in the Northern Ireland Assembly supports this flawed Protocol, therefore Brussels’ claim to be protecting peace continues to ring hollow.
“Regardless of the reaction in Brussels, the Prime Minister must deliver the unfettered flow of goods from Great Britain to Northern Ireland.”