Brussels has launched new charges against London following a unilateral review of the post-Brexit status of Northern Ireland

This is another step towards a potential referral to European justice. On Friday July 22, the European Commission announced that it has launched four new infringement procedures against the United Kingdom for non-compliance with the provisions of the post-Brexit protocol in Northern Ireland.

“Despite repeated calls from the European Parliament, the 27 EU member states and the European Commission to implement the protocol, the UK government has failed to do so”, blamed the European executive in a press release. The European Commission further notes “the refusal of the United Kingdom to hold a serious discussion since last February”as well as “the passage of the bill of [la révision unilatérale du] Northern Ireland Protocol to the British Parliament ».

Adopted by British deputies at the end of June in the first reading of this revision, which is considered illegal by the European Union (EU). To avoid the return of a border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, a member of the EU, the protocol creates a customs border between the British province and the island of Great Britain, but this situation interferes of supplies in the territory and sows anger. of the Unionist community included in remaining within the United Kingdom. The revision aims to create a “green canal”which exempts all administrative procedures for goods circulating and remaining within the United Kingdom – checks only apply to goods destined for the EU.

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“It is disappointing that the EU has chosen to take further legal action, especially regarding matters that leave Northern Ireland for Britain, which is clearly without risk to the European single market”reaction of a British government spokesman. ‘Legal litigation serves no one’s interests and will not solve the problems facing the people and businesses of Northern Ireland’he added.

Failure to comply with obligations and laws

The four new infringement procedures revealed on Friday are in addition to three others announced – one of which was re-launched – on June 15. They could lead to action before the EU Court of Justice and financial penalties. .

The new procedures are related to non-compliance with customs obligations and control of goods from Northern Ireland to Great Britain (which, according to Brussels, increases the risk of smuggling at the border of Northern Ireland), non-compliance of European law, in particular regarding alcohol taxes and VAT applicable to e-commerce.

The three previous actions taken related to non-compliance with the certification requirements for the movement of agri-food products, obligations in terms of sanitary and phytosanitary controls, and the non-communication of the EU with some statistical trade data about Northern Ireland.

The UK has two months to respond to the European Commission’s letters and take action to comply with the protocol.

Protect peace and the common market

The Northern Irish Protocol was negotiated between London and Brussels as part of the Divorce Treaty to address the sensitive border issue between Northern Ireland, which is part of the United Kingdom, and the Republic of Ireland, an EU member.

Also read: Brexit: why the border between the two Irelands is a headache for London

It was designed to achieve two goals: protecting the integrity of the European single market and avoiding the return of land borders, which would undermine the peace concluded in 1998 between London, Dublin and the main powers. in Irish politics. .

To solve this squaring of the circle, the government of Boris Johnson accepted that Northern Ireland remains within the European market, which is to establish a customs border in the Irish Sea with the rest of the United Kingdom.

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This situation complicated supplies and alarmed the Unionist community in Northern Ireland, where the province’s place within the United Kingdom was threatened. However, the protocol was never fully implemented, because grace periods of controls were introduced and extended for products such as non-frozen meat or medicines.

Under the terms of the post-Brexit agreement, Brussels may decide in retaliation to suspend the application of certain provisions, at the risk of creating a heated trade dispute with London.

The World with AFP

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