The EU has launched Criminal Proceedings against its former member Great BritainEU | June 15, 2022, Wednesday // 15:26| views
The European Commission opened two new criminal proceedings against Britain on Wednesday after London announced plans to unilaterally repeal some post-Brexit rules governing trade in Northern Ireland.
"The purpose of these infringement proceedings is to restore compliance with the Northern Ireland Protocol in a number of key areas where the United Kingdom is not implementing it properly - ultimately to protect the health and safety of EU citizens," stated the message from Brussels.
Proceedings could lead to fines imposed by the European Court of Justice, which under the agreement to leave the UK continues to be the arbitrator in the disputes between Brussels and London.
On Tuesday, the British government announced that it was introducing a bill in parliament to repeal customs controls and provisions on the role of the European Court of Justice as an arbitrator, as conditions make trade between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK too difficult.
The inspections were explicitly agreed in a protocol to the departure agreement to avoid the restoration of the border between Northern Ireland, which after Brexit is part of the United Kingdom, and the rest of the island of Ireland - which remained in the EU. For this to happen, the British province has formally remained part of the European common market and imports of goods from the rest of the UK are subject to customs declarations and sometimes require checks on arrival.
"Trust is built on compliance with international obligations. Unilateral action is not constructive. Violation of international agreements is unacceptable. The United Kingdom is not following the protocol," said European Commission Vice President Maros Sefcovic, who is responsible for implementing the Brexit agreement.
The European Commission has expressed a desire to hold talks with London on the proposal but has said it will not renegotiate the provisions of the Northern Ireland Protocol, as it has been ratified by all European members and the British Parliament.
Both criminal proceedings concern non-compliance with London's obligations under EU sanitary and phytosanitary rules, with no controls and no staff and infrastructure provided at Northern Ireland's border inspection posts for food inspection. The second is the failure to provide the EU with trade statistics on exports to Northern Ireland, as agreed in the UK Exit Treaty.
In addition, Brussels is reopening an old infringement procedure related to the certification of agricultural goods. It was frozen in March 2021 "as an expression of goodwill" to address the issue.
"The UK's reluctance to take part in a meaningful debate since February and unilateral action this week are directly against that spirit," the ruling said, adding that if no decision is reached in the next two months, Brussels will sue the Kingdom in the European Court of Justice.
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