European Commission resumes legal proceedings against UK over Brexit

European Commission resumes legal proceedings against UK over Brexit
Credit: BELGA PHOTO/ NICOLAS MAETERLINCK

The European Commission has officially launched infringement proceedings against the United Kingdom on 15 June for failure to comply with “significant parts” of the Protocol on Northern Ireland, the Commission announced in a press release.

According to the Commission, the UK has repeatedly failed to implement the agreements set out by the protocol in “clear breach of international law.”

“The aim of these infringement proceedings is to restore compliance with the Protocol in a number of key areas where the UK hasn’t been implementing it properly– ultimately with the goal of protecting the health and safety of EU citizens,” the statement reads.

Non-compliance

The Commission alleges that the UK has refused to abide by rules relating to the movement of food and agricultural products, failing to carry out controls at border control posts in Northern Ireland, and failing to provide the EU with trade statistics for Northern Ireland.

The Northern Ireland Protocol was first drafted between the European Union and the UK as part of the UK’s Withdrawal Agreement with the EU. Notably, the protocol aims to prevent a hard border in Ireland, protect the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, and protect the EU’s single market in the Republic of Ireland.

The UK Government, under embattled Conservative leader Boris Johnson, has put forward proposals to effectively rip up the NI Protocol, renegotiating trade agreements and creating a “green channel” for goods travelling from NI to Great Britain without checks.

The EU accuses the UK of failing to negotiate seriously and carry out its obligations under the relatively new treaty imposed between the two parties.

“Trust is built by adhering to international obligations. Acting unilaterally is not constructive. Violating international agreements is not acceptable. The UK is not respecting the Protocol,” said European Commission Vice-President Maroš Šefčovič.

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The Commission is furthering one infringement proceeding launched against the UK in March last year, as well as adding two new proceedings relating to checks on goods and trade.

The UK may respond either by quickly backing down from its new Northern Ireland proposals and enforcing checks on goods, or it can attempt to challenge the decision in the Court of Justice of the European Union. The EU can seek to impose a lump sum or penalty payment against the UK for non compliance with the NI protocols.

Boris Johnson beset on all fronts

On the part of the EU, there is still a desire to cooperate with the UK to resolve the long-running post-Brexit tensions.

“I am still convinced that with genuine political will to make the Protocol work, we can reach our objectives. I call on my UK counterparts to engage in good faith and explore the full potential of the solutions we have put forward,” Šefčovič said.

The UK government is facing a slew of legal challenges to its controversial foreign and immigration policy. UK plans to deport asylum seekers to reception centres in Rwanda were halted due to last-minute interventions by the European Court of Human Rights and the Court of Appeal in London.

Increasingly under-fire, the Prime Minister Boris Johnson even suggested that the UK might withdraw from the ECHR to prevent lawyers from thwarting the government’s plans.


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