EU launches legal action against UK

  • The EU has launched legal action against the UK after Boris Johnson failed to respond to Brussels’ demand that he drop legislation that would overwrite the withdrawal agreement and break international law.
  • The announcement comes after weeks of controversy since Boris Johnson’s government revealed its plans to put in place legislation that would override a specific part of the Withdrawal Agreement called the Northern Ireland Protocol.
  • The protocol was agreed in order to eliminate the need for border checks between the only land border shared by the EU and UK on the island of Ireland.
  • Both sides fear that checks could lead to a hard border and the return of sectarian violence that Ireland and Northern Ireland hoped were a distant memory.
  • Since the UK government has not pulled this legislation, the Commission has written a letter of formal notice to the UK government, the first step in an infringement procedure — something the EU commonly uses when parties breach agreements with the union.
  • The internal market bill would give ministers legal powers to override two elements of the Northern Ireland protocol, which Johnson agreed last October in order to avoid a return to a hard border in Ireland.
  • The government claims that the bill is a safety net to ensure seamless trade between the four nations of the United Kingdom in the event of a no deal Brexit at the end of this year and hopes it won’t have to use the legislation.
  • The commission’s letter is the start of a lengthy process that could ultimately end in the European Court of Justice.
  • The EU court in Luxembourg could impose huge daily for continued breaches.
  • The UK agreed to be bound by decisions of the court on cases begun before the end of the transition period on December 31 and for four years after that point.
  • The infringement procedure is a common tool used by the commission against member states.
  • Last year alone there were 800 open cases.
  • Germany had 47 pending cases, and France 34.
  • Each procedure takes on average 35 months to complete.
  • The EU has initially suggested the internal market bill was an impediment to the ongoing trade and security negotiations but has in recent weeks decoupled the issues.