The European Union refuses to abandon the agreements it made with the United Kingdom on Northern Ireland. If the British government perseveres in the agreements and changes them unilaterally, says European Commissioner in charge Maros Sefcovic, it should fear legal action.
The government in London wants to get rid of the so-called Northern Ireland Protocol, which was intended to ensure that after Britain leaves the European Union there will be no hard borders between the United Kingdom, which belongs to Northern Ireland and the European Union member state. It could jeopardize the expensive peace between the pro-Ireland Catholics and the pro-British Protestants on the island. But the protocol complicates trade between Northern Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom and forces the Northern Irish to continue to follow Brussels’ rules, as London laments.
But Sefkovic says “with great concern” that unilaterally changing the binding agreements is not possible. That “harms mutual trust”. He reiterates once again that “the European Union will not renegotiate the Protocol”. He said there was no viable alternative to the “delicate balance” that had been found for Northern Ireland after long negotiations.
So Brussels will consider whether it still has to follow through on previous legal steps against London. Sefkovic recalls that the commission halted the so-called infringement procedure last year, in the hope of finding an amicable solution. He does not rule out the initiation of new similar complaints procedures, which could take the UK to European courts and cost hefty fines.
Sefkovic also hints at countermeasures that could affect British trade. He notes that the EU-UK trade agreement is based on the Brexit agreements, including those for Northern Ireland. And the European Commissioner warned that “the British government’s decision today undermines the confidence required for cooperation” within the framework of that agreement.
Sivkovic confirms that Brussels still wants to work on solving the problem with London. According to him, the European Union has always understood the difficulties caused by the agreements and made proposals to address them. So the commission will soon announce its plans for a “flexible introduction of the protocol”, as it will provide enough space for this. The European Commissioner is calling on the British government to “work with us to find common solutions”.
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