The European Union is launching legal action against the United Kingdom over its efforts to protect trade between the British mainland and Northern Ireland, vindicating critics of Boris Johnson’s deals with the bloc who said they ensured Brexit was by no means “done”.
The terms Prime Minister Johnson agreed with the bloc on Northern Ireland were particularly onerous, with Northern Ireland, or Ulster, being left within the regulatory domain of the EU, and a partial customs border between the British province and England, Scotland, and Wales being imposed.
A so-called “grace period” before these conditions were imposed on Northern Ireland fully was permitted until the end of March, but the British government is now extending this until October unilaterally as Northern Irish people and businesses face shortages and other difficulties, compounded by the coronavirus pandemic.
“The [Northern Ireland protocol] is there to uphold and to guarantee, to buttress the Good Friday Agreement, the peace process,” explained Johnson.
“That always had the symmetry in it: it was very very important that the wishes, the consent of both the communities in Northern Ireland, should be properly reflected in the outcome, and that it should guarantee, not just trade and movement, north, south; but east, west as well,” he said.
The Prime Minister was likely referring to the unhappiness of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), which is the main representative of the majority in Northern Ireland who wish to remain in the United Kingdom rather than join the Irish republic, with the way Johnson’s deals have created barriers between Ulster and the rest of the British Union.
BREAKING: The EU has formally confirmed it is launching legal action against the UK.
It has launched infringement proceedings for alleged breaches of EU law and triggered a dispute mechanism under the withdrawal agreement, accusing UK of bad faith.https://t.co/9ebu1gnc6l pic.twitter.com/L5QpBwnQ5U
— Sky News (@SkyNews) March 15, 2021
“The Protocol on Ireland and Northern Ireland is the only way to protect the Good Friday (Belfast) Agreement and to preserve peace and stability, while avoiding a hard border on the island of Ireland and maintaining the integrity of the EU Single Market,” insisted Maros Sefcovic for the European Commission.
“Unilateral decisions and international law violations by the UK defeat its very purpose and undermine trust between us,” he lectured — somewhat ironically, considering the European Commission announced it would be imposing a hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland for vaccines just weeks ago without even bothering to consult the Irish government in Dublin, before being forced into a humiliating climbdown.
“The UK must properly implement it if we are to achieve our objectives. That is why we are launching legal action today,” Sefcovic added — although he did leave the door open to a resolution of the dispute through talks, “without recourse to further legal means.”
First Minister of Northern Ireland Launches Public Petition to Ditch EU Deal https://t.co/CbbsHvJUXT
— Breitbart London (@BreitbartLondon) February 5, 2021
The British government, for its part, is insisting that its moves in Northern Ireland are “lawful and part of a progressive and good faith implementation of the Northern Ireland Protocol.”
“Low-key operational measures like these are well precedented and common in the early days of major international treaties. In some areas, the EU also seems to need time to implement the detail of our agreements. This is a normal process when implementing new treaties and not something that should warrant legal action,” a spokesman insisted.
Whether or not the EU is implementing its deals with Brexit Britain on Northern Ireland and trade remains an open question, with EU officials having on one occasion seized a lorry driver’s ham sandwiches at the border on the pretext of them being a prohibited food import and saying “Welcome to Brexit, sir”.
The EU legal action could end up in the European Court of Justice (ECJ), according to The Times — a highly embarrassing possibility for Prime Minister Johnson and the Conservative party, who have always tried to give the impression that their deals had secured full independence from the EU court, in which Britain now has no judicial representation.
Bow Group: Leavers Pretending Boris Got a Good Deal Are Kidding Themselves https://t.co/LkegGLYPMf
— Breitbart London (@BreitbartLondon) December 31, 2020