On the pretext that the UK is not complying with the terms of the EU Withdrawal Agreement by violating international law, the EU has taken legal action against the former European member. The UK government unilaterally extended the amendment period to post-Brexit rules on goods controls by six months in favor of Northern Irish companies.
The formal procedure for the violation could end in the European Court of Justice and lead to the activation of the dispute mechanism provided in the Withdrawal Agreement.
To avoid a “painful” border on the Irish island, the protocol contained in the agreement requires checks on goods transiting from Great Britain into Northern Ireland to ensure that they comply with European bloc rules. The controls have recently disrupted supply chains in Northern Ireland, sparking protests from trade union parties such as the Protestant Democratic Right and the Conservative Ulster.
The grace period required to adapt to the new rules will expire at the end of this month, and their implementation has so far been postponed. To protect Northern Ireland’s interests and especially to keep supermarket shelves full, the UK has no choice but to extend the temporary period rather than the latter.
However, the decision, confirmed last week by the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Brandon Lewis, was taken unilaterally without informing the European Commission, representing a serious blow to the trust between the two countries after the difficult divorce period.
On the island of Ireland, the two sides share a land border with a special trading system, due to the absence of customs. European Union Vice President Marus Sivkovic told his British counterpart David Frost that “the recent measures have put the UK once again on the path of a willful violation of its obligations under international law and the duty of goodwill that should prevail.”
It is a further deterioration in relations since the divorce transition period ended on January 1. Controversy and discussions stem from the struggle over vaccines to full European Union diplomatic recognition in Britain. Now again, the dispute is over the terms of the divorce agreement.
A British government spokesman said it would respond to the European Commission “in due time,” insisting that the measures are temporary and aimed at reducing unrest in Northern Ireland. “It is legal and part of a progressive intent and good faith in implementing the Northern Ireland Protocol,” the spokesman said in a press release. “Subtle practical measures like this have precedents in the early days of major international treaties. This is a normal process when implementing new treaties and it is not something that should justify legal action.”
Northern Ireland Prime Minister Arlene Foster accused the European Union of acting “selfishly” following its decision to take legal action against the British government. “The failure of Brussels to acknowledge the damage the Protocol causes to Northern Ireland is further demonstrated by this move toward litigation,” Foster said.
Meanwhile, exports to the European Union fell by 40.7% in the first month after Brexit, to the tune of 5.6 billion pounds. Economists say Brexit is playing a crucial role and will continue to affect growth in the UK. “Britain’s exit from the European Union has made the situation worse,” said chief economist Samuel Toombs.
Surin Theroux, head of economics at British Chambers of Commerce, said: “The practical difficulties facing business on the ground go beyond just childhood, with disrupted trade flows between the UK and the European Union. It is likely to be a drag on UK economic growth.” .
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