Europe launches infringement proceedings against Britain over Protocol

The European Commission has launched infringement proceedings against the UK for 'not complying with significant parts of the Irish Protocol'.
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The legal proceedings follow the publication by the British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss on Monday of the British Government's Northern Ireland Protocol Bill which aims to give it the power to unilaterally override elements of the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement it signed with the European Union.

Speaking on Wednesday, European Commission Vice-President, Maroš Šefčovič, claimed the legislation confirmed the British Government's 'intention to unilaterally break international law'.

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"More precisely, to break an agreement that protects peace and stability in Northern Ireland – an agreement that we reached together only two years ago.

Maroš ŠefčovičMaroš Šefčovič
Maroš Šefčovič

"Let there be no doubt: there is no legal, nor political justification whatsoever for unilaterally changing an international agreement. Opening the door to unilaterally changing an international agreement is a breach of international law as well.

"Let's call a spade a spade: this is illegal.

"This UK bill is extremely damaging to mutual trust and respect between the EU and the UK," he said.

Mr. Šefčovič claimed that the UK government had failed to implement the Protocol and that the aim of the infringement proceedings was 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'.

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The EC has also providing additional details on possible solutions it proposed around customs and phytosanitary and sanitary controls in October 2021.

It has called on the British Government to 'engage seriously and constructively with these suggested solutions'.

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Britain lays bill to override elements of Brexit Withdrawal Agreement Protocol

Mr. Šefčovič, said: “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. That is why we are launching these infringement proceedings today.

"The EU and the UK must work together to address the practical problems that the Protocol creates in Northern Ireland due to Brexit. I am still convinced that with genuine political will to make the Protocol work, we can reach our objectives.

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"I call on my UK counterparts to engage in good faith and explore the full potential of the solutions we have put forward. Only joint solutions will create the legal certainty that people and businesses in Northern Ireland deserve.”

Today's action involves the issuance of two new infringement proceedings against the UK - one for an alleged failure to carry out SPS checks and another for an alleged failure to provide certain trade statistics data in respect of the north, as required under the Protocol.

The EC says this marks the beginning of formal infringement processes, as set out in Article 12(4) of the Protocol, in conjunction with Article 258 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union and that letters issued request the UK to take swift remedial actions to restore compliance with the terms of the Protocol.

A third infringement originally launched on March 15, 2021 has also been moved to its second stage with the issuance of a Reasoned Opinion.

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The UK government has two months to reply to the EC after which Mr. Šefčovič said it will consider taking the UK to the Court of Justice of the European Union. Under Article 12(4) of the Protocol.