EU launches legal action against UK over Brexit changes

EU launches legal action against UK over Brexit changes

EU launches legal action against UK over Brexit changes

BRUSSELS (AP) — The European Union is launching legal action against the UK in response to unilateral moves to rewrite parts of the Northern Ireland Protocol in the post-Brexit agreement between the two parties, the bloc executive said Wednesday.

The proposed UK bill aims to abolish customs controls on some goods entering Northern Ireland from the rest of the UK. That will negate parts of the trade deal that Prime Minister Boris Johnson signed with the EU less than two years ago.

The EU believes the UK’s unilateral decision violates international law. The so-called Northern Ireland Protocol is the part of the Brexit deal that keeps Northern Ireland in the EU’s single market for goods.

The bloc of 27 countries will resume infringement proceedings launched against the British government last year after Britain unilaterally extended a grace period applicable to trade on the island of Ireland.

The action was suspended in September 2021 as both sides tried to find a joint solution. In addition, the EU will take further action against the UK for alleged failure to carry out necessary controls under EU rules and provide trade statistics as required under the Protocol.

In the final stage of an infringement procedure, which can take months, the European Commission can refer such cases to the bloc’s highest court. The European Court of Justice has jurisdiction to rule on EU law in Northern Ireland.

Northern Ireland is the only part of the UK that shares a border with an EU country – the Republic of Ireland. When Britain left the EU and its borderless free trade zone, the two sides agreed to keep Ireland’s land border clear of customs posts and other controls, as an open border is a key pillar of the peace process that ended decades of violence in Northern Ireland.

To protect the EU’s internal market, there are controls on some goods, such as meat and eggs, entering Northern Ireland from the rest of the UK

British trade unionists in Northern Ireland say the new controls have put a burden on businesses and have torn ties between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK – seen by some union members as a threat to their British identity.

The British Conservative government says Brexit rules are also undermining peace in Northern Ireland, where they have sparked a political crisis. Northern Ireland’s main unionist party is blocking the formation of a new power-sharing government in Belfast, saying it will not participate until Brexit trade rules are scrapped.