Brussels replies to UK with three infringement procedures

After the new law promoted by the British Prime Minister to unilaterally modify what was agreed for Northern Ireland in the Brexit agreement
Úrsula von der Leyen

AFP/ CHRISTIAN HARTMANN  -   Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission

The European Commission (EC) announced Wednesday that it will reactivate an infringement procedure against the United Kingdom that had been "frozen" and will launch two more files after the new law promoted by the British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, to unilaterally modify what was agreed for Northern Ireland in the Brexit agreement. 

The dossier that Brussels is going to reactivate - after having "frozen" it in March 2021 - was launched at the time because London was not applying the agreement between the parties in relation to the certificates required for the movement of agri-food products. 

Brussels will now send the UK a reasoned opinion, the second step in the infringement procedure, and if London fails to respond "satisfactorily", the EU could refer the matter to the EU Court of Justice, EU sources warned. 

In addition, the Commission will launch two new procedures in response to London's failure to comply with obligations on European sanitary and phytosanitary rules, in particular by failing to carry out the necessary checks and to have adequate staff and infrastructure in place, as well as failing to send data on trade statistics relating to Northern Ireland, as required by the protocol between the parties.

Boris Johnson
PHOTO/LEON NEAL  -   Boris Johnson, British Prime Minister

Commissioner for Inter-Institutional Relations Maros Sefcovic told a press conference today that there is "no legal or political justification for unilaterally changing an international agreement" and stressed that what London has done is "illegal". 

He said it is "legally inconceivable" for the UK to decide what kind of goods can enter the single market and stressed that Member States are "united" in this position. 

On the other hand, he insisted that the EU has no intention of renegotiating what has been agreed. 

"We are not going to reopen the whole protocol negotiated two years ago," he stressed. 

However, despite acknowledging that contacts with the British have been non-existent since last February, the commissioner said he was open to dialogue with London to resolve the differences.

AFP/OLIVIER HOSLET  -   Members of the EU Council remove the UK flag from the European Council building in Brussels on Brexit day, 31 January 2020

"It is time to show the political will to find solutions", the commissioner stressed, and emphasised that this requires a "joint" attitude. 

At the same time, the European Commission today released further details of the possible solutions it presented last October to facilitate the movement of goods between the UK and Northern Ireland. 

In particular, it presented a simplified model for the implementation of the protocol, which includes a number of safeguards to ensure that goods do not enter the EU single market. 

The Commission believes that these suggestions pave the way to resolving implementation problems related to customs and sanitary and phytosanitary aspects.