EU legal action: Why Brussels is kicking off over Brexit bill – what it means for Britain

Brexit: Maroš Šefčovič slams ‘illegal’ bill

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Boris Johnson and his Government have received another legal challenge from the EU today, as the bloc objects to his handling of the Northern Ireland protocol. He and Liz Truss have introduced draft legislation paving the way for the UK to unilaterally rewrite passages of the arrangement, which currently governs trade entering Northern Ireland via the Irish Sea. The EU Commission has claimed the proposal is a “clear breach of international law” in its response and has aimed to “restore compliance” with the protocol.

Why is the EU suing the UK?

Brussels’ legal action isn’t new, as it resumes previously suspended proceedings over the Government’s conduct in Northern Ireland.

The Commission previously took issue with the UK’s failure to implement border checks in the country set up by the protocol.

Officials have identified three specific infractions in its proceedings published today.

Agri-food certification

Brussels is relaunching its infringement launched on March 15 relating to “agri-food” certification and bringing it to its next stage.

The bloc accused the UK of failing to uphold certification requirements for food products made with commercial farming, resulting in the so-called “sausage wars”.

The Commission said it put its action on hold last year “in a spirit of constructive cooperation”, but the unilateral action coupled with the “UK’s unwillingness to engage in meaningful discussion since February” led it to reconsider.

Officials have asked the UK to comply with these standards within two months.

If not, the Commission has pledged to take the UK to the European Courts of Justice (ECJ).

Article 12(4) of the Northern Ireland Protocol would allow it to request a penalty from Mr Johnson’s Government.

That could include “the possibility to impose a lump sum or penalty payment”, the Commission added.

Figures compliance and misapplying EU law

The two new infringement proceedings include “obligations under the EU’s sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) rules” and EU law.

The former sees the bloc accuse the UK of “not carrying out the necessary controls” and “failing to ensure adequate staffing and infrastructure” at Northern Irish border control posts.

The Commission added: “It has also issued guidance that has the effect of disapplying EU law.”

And the Government has failed to “provide the EU with certain trade statistics”, again concerning Northern Ireland, as required under the protocol.

European Commission Vice-President, Maroš Šefčovič, condemned the UK for not acting in a “constructive” manner and said it was “not acceptable” to violate international agreements.

He added: “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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