The EU is threatening to sue the UK over post-Brexit deal revisions
On Wednesday, the EU is poised to take legal action against the UK government for scrapping several post-Brexit trade agreements.
To avoid jeopardizing the peace process, ministers insist that present curbs on some products traveling from the United Kingdom to Northern Ireland be lifted.
On Monday, they released a parliamentary measure aimed at nullifying portions of the EU pact agreed in 2020.
However, Brussels claims that breaking the agreement is against international law.
The Northern Ireland Protocol is a provision of the Brexit agreement that ensures Northern Ireland’s continued access to the EU’s single market for goods.
This avoids a hard border with the Republic of Ireland, including inspections on people and goods movement, which both the UK and the EU wish to avoid in order to keep the peace.
Instead, it means that some products arriving in Northern Ireland from other parts of the UK will be subject to inspection.
Unionists in Northern Ireland are opposed to this, claiming that it will create a commercial border in the Irish Sea and could lead to the UK’s disintegration.
The Democratic Unionist Party has refused to participate in a power-sharing executive with Sinn Fein until the protocol is amended, following elections in Northern Ireland last month.
Other Northern Ireland parties, such as Sinn Fein, the Alliance Party, and the SDLP, accept the deal.
The UK government has stated that it would prefer to work with the EU on modifications to the convention rather than acting alone.
“We’ve been acting in good faith in these negotiations,” Foreign Secretary Liz Truss told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, “but the fundamental issues that are affecting political stability in Northern Ireland are in the text of the protocol, and what we need is the EU to agree to change the text of the protocol.”
“Otherwise, the negotiations will fail.” We’ve reached a stalemate because we can’t resolve the basic concerns of customs and VAT that are costing us the support of Northern Ireland’s unionist population.”
Measures outlined in the Northern Ireland Protocol Bill, including the concept of “green lanes” and “red lanes” for trade, are at the heart of the UK government’s attempt to reduce the impact on businesses.
This would entail:
- Goods entering Northern Ireland from the United Kingdom (England, Scotland, and Wales) and remaining there utilizing the green lane, which means no checks and minimal paperwork.
- Goods going from the United Kingdom to Northern Ireland or the European Union as a whole would use the red lane, meaning they would be scrutinized at ports in Northern Ireland.
The UK also wants the European Court of Justice (ECJ), situated in Luxembourg, to play no role in future disputes regarding the protocol, instead relying on an independent arbitrator to sit in judgement.
In response, the EU has suggested that it will resume legal proceedings that it began in March of last year, accusing the UK of delaying the implementation of portions of the protocol relating to customs inspections without consulting the EU.
It could take the UK to the European Court of Justice over claims that it did not do enough to set up border control posts and share data with the EU.
At its meeting on Wednesday, the European Commission is poised to approve the next legal steps, despite the fact that several senior EU officials have spoken out against the UK’s desire to rewrite portions of the protocol.
“This is not consistent with international law and the British government’s obligations under international law, and that will be proved in time,” Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney told Today.
“Essentially, what they will be doing is collapsing the protocol” and removing safeguards against “the terrible disruption of Brexit on the island of Ireland,” he added.
“Britain has made a very sad decision that contradicts all EU-British accords,” German Chancellor Olaf Scholz stated.
“It’s especially unjustified because the European Commission has offered a number of practical proposals.”
Meanwhile, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken urged Boris Johnson’s government to “remain committed to good faith negotiations with the EU.”
The protocol has caused problems for businesses importing goods from the United Kingdom into Northern Ireland, as the checks and regulations add cost and complexity.
Importers of food and horticulture have had the biggest difficulties, as these items are subjected to the most stringent regulations.
Exporters, on the other hand, have benefited because they have kept seamless access to EU markets, unlike other regions of the UK.