UK PM Boris Johnson earlier announced that the government had introduced a bill that would amend the Northern Ireland Protocol – a provision in the Brexit agreement with the EU, which allowed the UK to prevent a hard border from being placed between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, but was devised only as a temporarily solution.
The European Commission has launched legal proceedings against the UK in response to its plans to unilaterally change the Northern Ireland Protocol, a special amendment to the Brexit agreement that governs border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.
Vice-President of the European Commission Maros Sefcovic dismissed the plans of the UK, which introduced a bill earlier this week to alter the Protocol, as “illegal”:
Sefcovic further argued that London’s actions in this regard were “extremely damaging” to the mutual trust between the European bloc and the UK. He added that the move cast a shadow over further cooperation between the two.
Announcing the launch of legal proceedings, the European Commission accused the UK government of failing to implement portions of the Northern Ireland Protocol despite repeated calls to do so coming from Brussels.
This is not the first time London has threatened to effectively scrap the NI Protocol, which was introduced into the Brexit agreement to avoid violations of the 1998 Good Friday Agreement that ended the violent conflict on the island. The Protocol mandates that there should be no hard border between the Republic of Ireland, which is a part of the EU’s single market, and Northern Ireland, part of the UK, which has left the bloc.
The NI Protocol effectively made Northern Ireland compliant with EU regulations and, due to the absence of the border, allowed EU goods to enter its market. This, in turn, prompted London to conduct checks of all goods transported from Northern Island to the rest of the UK, to the great dissatisfaction of No. 10 Downing Street.
The Protocol was supposed to be a temporary measure that would allow the UK to finalise its divorce from the EU, a process that has taken years following the historic referendum. However, the two sides have since failed to come up with a permanent solution to replace it.