EU Nations Pull Trigger On Legal Action Against UK Over Brexit Backsliding

It’s no secret that EU officials in Brussels are furious over charges that Britain is backsliding on treaty obligations in its exhaustedly negotiated Brexit withdrawal agreement designed to prevent the reestablishment a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic.

EU nations are now backing legal action against the UK after it was reported the European commission is busy working on “infringement proceedings” against Britain due to its “unilaterally” seeking to ease the impact of Brexit on Northern Irish businesses in contradiction of prior agreements. 

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A new FT report cites diplomats who attended a closed door meeting of EU ambassadors in Brussels Tuesday to say “EU nations have supported Brussels’ plan for legal action against the UK over its decision,” and further that, “France and other countries supported the plans by EU Brexit chief Maros Sefcovic” that would include “a twin-track approach” to rebuke and punish the UK.

“We are currently preparing it and it would be really something coming to our table very soon. The most precise term I can give you is really very soon,” Sefcovic said.

Specifically the infringement proceeding would by the end lead the UK to the European Court of Justice, and further involving a formal reprimand for London’s “breach of good faith,” according to the report.

Last week Sefcovic voiced what he described as “the EU’s strong concerns over the UK’s unilateral action, as this amounts to a violation of the relevant substantive provisions of the Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland” to UK Brexit representatives. 

To review among the key contentions issues of the Northern Ireland Protocol include:

As part of its departure from the EU, the U.K. agreed to conduct checks on goods moving across the Irish Sea, going from Scotland, Wales and England to Northern Ireland. The latter has remained part of the EU’s single market for goods to avoid a hard border with the Republic of Ireland in what’s known as the Northern Ireland Protocol.

The U.K. had until the end of this month to put forward these checks, but it has decided to extend the implementation period until October. A move that the European Commission, the executive arm of the EU, said breaches their agreement and therefore international law.

In rebuttal to EU anger the UK said it adequately notified the European commission early last week before any public statements that it’s extending a grace period merely as a “temporary” technical step in order “to provide more time for businesses such as supermarkets and parcel operators to adapt to and implement the new requirements.”

Meanwhile, international delivery specialist ParcelHero put out a study noting that “increased red tape and duties mean UK traders could face a 35% drop in sales of products sourced overseas.” It claimed, “The Government’s Brexit rollout is going to hell in a handcart. The Prime Minister must return to the negotiating table to sort out the escalating issues facing the UK’s beleaguered retailers.”

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