The European Union has launched legal action against the UK after Boris Johnson’s Government pushed through a law, approved this week in the House of Commons, that allows for the UK Government to override elements of the Northern Ireland protocol.
Mr Johnson had agreed to the protocol last October in order to avoid a return to a hard in Ireland.
The UK Government had failed to respond to Brussels’ demand to drop the legislation that would overwrite the EU-UK withdrawal agreement, and thus break international law.
EU Commission President, Ursula von der Leyen, announced on Wednesday that the UK has been put on formal notice over the internal market bill tabled by Boris Johnson last month.
Brussels gave Mr Johnson until end September to remove the clauses that overwrite the withdrawal agreement, however, the deadline has lapsed.
Ms Von der Leyen said that by unilaterally seeking to change the terms of the withdrawal agreement, signed only last year with Brussels, the UK had already failed to live up to its obligations to act in “good faith”.
She added that the UK now has a month to respond to the Commission’s formal letter of notice, which formally marks the beginning of a formal infringement process.
“We had invited our British friends to remove the problematic parts of their draft internal market bill, by the end of September”, she said. “This draft bill is by its very nature, a breach of the obligation of good faith, laid down in the withdrawal agreement. Moreover, if adopted as is it will be in full contradiction to the Protocol on Ireland and Northern Ireland.”
She added: ”The problematic provisions have not been removed. Therefore, this morning, the Commission has decided to send a letter of formal notice to the UK Government. This is the first step in an infringement procedure.”
The problematic parts deal with the UK providing for ministerial discretion as to whether to notify the Commission of any Government subsidy decisions that could impact trade in goods in Norther Ireland. In addition, ministerial discretion has also been provided on whether to waive the need for export summary declarations when sending goods from Northern Ireland to the rest of the UK.
The UK has said it needs the “safety net” should the EU act unreasonably.