EU pauses legal action against UK over Northern Ireland’s Brexit deal
The European Commission has paused legal action against the UK over the implementation of the post-Brexit deal on Northern Ireland, in the hope that solutions to outstanding issues can be found.
Brexit minister Lord Frost has demanded that significant changes are made to the Northern Ireland Protocol, an element of the deal he negotiated, as he said “we cannot go on as we are”.
He called for a “standstill” period, preserving the current grace periods and suspending legal action taken by the EU against the UK while changes are negotiated.
A European Commission spokeswoman said on Tuesday that the legal action pause would be used to consider proposals put forward by the UK last week.
The spokeswoman added: “While the EU will not renegotiate the Protocol, we stand ready to address all the issues arising in the practical implementation of the Protocol in a spirit of good faith and cooperation.
“It is essential that we continue constructive discussions in the weeks ahead.
“With regards to the request for a standstill, the Commission will carefully assess the new proposals made by the UK, in accordance with the necessary consultation procedures, both internally, and with the European Parliament.
“In order to provide the necessary space to reflect on these issues and find durable solutions to the implementation of the Protocol, we have decided, at this stage, not to move to the next stage of the infringement procedure, started in March.”
A UK Government spokeswoman said: “We have received a constructive reply from the Commission in response to our request for a standstill on existing arrangements.
“We look forward to engaging in talks with the EU in the weeks ahead to progress the proposals in our command paper.
“As we set out in the Command Paper last week, significant changes are needed to ensure the Protocol is sustainable for future.”
The Northern Ireland Protocol, part of the Brexit divorce deal agreed by the UK and Brussels, effectively keeps Northern Ireland in the EU’s single market for goods.
This means checks on goods being sent from Great Britain into the single market and in some cases could result in prohibitions on certain products that do not comply with EU rules.
The Protocol was put in place to ensure there would be no hard border with Ireland, but it has instead effectively placed a trade barrier in the Irish Sea.