EU threatens legal action over UK’s N Ireland trade bill
The EU threatened legal action against Britain after the UK government on Monday introduced legislation proposing a unilateral overhaul to the post-Brexit trade deal it signed for Northern Ireland.
“It is with significant concern that we take note of today’s decision by the UK Government to table legislation,” European Commission Vice President Maros Sefcovic said in a prepared statement to reporters in Brussels.
“Unilateral action is damaging to mutual trust. The Commission will now assess the UK draft legislation,” Sefcovic said.
Sefcovic, who handles the EU’s fraught ties with the UK government, said the Europeans would not renegotiate the divorce deal and its special protocol for trade in Northern Ireland.
This “will simply bring further legal uncertainty for the people and businesses in Northern Ireland”, he said.
Given the breach of the divorce deal, Sefcovic said Brussels would now consider reopening a suspended “infringement procedure” against Britain, as well as opening fresh cases.
This would be to “protect the EU single market from risks that the violation of the protocol creates for the EU businesses and for the health and safety of EU citizens”, he added.
The protocol requires checks on goods arriving into Northern Ireland from England, Scotland and Wales, in order to track products that could be potentially headed to the EU via the Republic of Ireland.
This creates a customs border down the Irish Sea, keeping Northern Ireland in the EU’s customs orbit so as to avoid a politically sensitive hard border between it and EU member Ireland.