Post-Brexit Deal Updates: The EU has threatened the UK government with additional legal action over its plans to cancel elements of the postBrexit Northern Ireland deal.
On Monday, ministers unveiled a bill intended at unilaterally altering trade, tax, and governance provisions under the 2019 agreement.Both sides agreed to the pact, but the United Kingdom claims it has disrupted trade and power sharing in Northern Ireland.However, the EU claims that overriding aspects of the agreement would violate international law.”
There is no legal or political reason whatsoever for unilaterally amending an international agreement,” stated Maros Sefcovic, vice-president of the European Commission.Mr Sefcovic stated, “Let’s call a spade a spade, this is illegal,” adding that the UK’s decision “left us with no alternative” but to pursue legal action.The spokeswoman for Prime Minister Boris Johnson expressed disappointment with the EU’s legal action and reiterated the government’s preference for a negotiated solution.
The Northern Ireland Protocol is a specific agreement that allows Northern Ireland to remain in the EU’s single market for goods while also avoiding a hard border with the Republic of Ireland.The agreement insured that free trade could continue across the Irish land border, which is a sensitive topic given Northern Ireland’s history of war.However, unionist leaders have criticised the protocol for introducing new checks on products transiting between the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland.The arrangements, however, are supported by the majority of parliamentarians elected to the Northern Ireland Assembly in last month’s elections.The European Commission said it would resume legal proceedings against the United Kingdom for delaying checks on some products arriving in Northern Ireland from the United Kingdom, which had been paused since March 2021.The Commission has opened two fresh investigations into allegations that the UK failed to meet its responsibilities to share trade data and establish border inspection stations.These legal actions may result in a fine being imposed on the United Kingdom as part of a dispute resolution process overseen by the European Court of Justice (ECJ).
However, the dispute resolution process can take months, and the Commission has stated that it will keep its “door open” for talks with the UK to find a solution.The EU’s legal action may appear dramatic, but it is the culmination of a month-long process.Legislation in the United Kingdom to repeal portions of the protocol will also take time, since the bill is expected to face opposition in Parliament.In any case, the stakes have been heightened in a disagreement that has been dragging on for months.The European Commission’s Maros Sefcovic, on the other hand, has made it clear that his door is open and that the EU wants to discuss.The truth remains, though, that the two sides can’t even agree on what they should discuss.The EU will not agree to Britain’s demands for tax and governance reforms.On customs, there is greater agreement, and Brussels hopes to demonstrate that progress can be made within the confines of the existing treaty.However, the atmosphere is not upbeat, with ambassadors routinely stating that they believe the subject is entangled in Tory party politics.And, if nothing changes, the slow burning progress of legal action and legislation could erupt into a larger battle. But, as officials are quick to point out, we aren’t quite there yet.The UK government has stated that it would prefer to work with the EU on revisions rather than acting unilaterally to repeal portions of the treaty.The administration based its decision on a legal concept known as the “doctrine of necessity,” claiming that the protocol was putting society and politics in Northern Ireland in “danger.”Suella Braverman, the UK government’s top legal adviser, told the BBC that the protocol was “adversely and significantly harming” Northern Ireland.While she favoured negotiation, she said the EU had failed to do so “meaningfully” for “almost two years now, which is why we’ve been left with no alternative but to take these measures.” The Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), which has refused to join unless the protocol is modified, is required to form Northern Ireland’s power sharing administration. Foreign Secretary Liz Truss has urged the DUP to “get on with it,” but the party’s leader, Sir Jeffrey Donaldson, has stated that it will only do so if the protocol bill passes.Earlier this week, Philippe Lamberts, a Belgian member of the European Parliament, told the BBC that the UK’s proposed protocol amendments were “political posturing.”Boris Johnson has “stretched Boris Johnson’s patience to the limit” in Brussels, he added.