Financial Times wrote:EU nations have thrown their weight behind Brussels’ plan to launch legal action against the UK over its decision to take unilateral steps to ease the impact of Brexit on Northern Irish businesses.
France and other states backed plans outlined by EU Brexit chief Maros Sefcovic at a closed-door meeting of ambassadors in Brussels on Tuesday, according to several diplomats present.
One said that the overall message from governments that intervened was that Brussels needed to be “calm and firm” in pushing back against the UK’s announcement that it would go it alone in extending grace periods on post-Brexit rules.
Under the terms of the Northern Ireland protocol — part of the 2019 Brexit divorce treaty that secured Britain’s formal exit from the EU — the region, while remaining part of the UK, must follow EU customs rules for goods. To avoid a land border on the island of Ireland, this required the creation of a trade frontier in the Irish Sea to ensure all goods flowing from Great Britain into Northern Ireland comply with the bloc’s rules.
With trade on certain goods such as food and agricultural produce facing stricter checks from next month, the UK was anxious to ease the impact on businesses and acted unilaterally to extend grace periods on issues such as the supply of goods to supermarkets.
Sefcovic’s legal response to the UK move, outlined to ambassadors on Tuesday, would involve a twin-track approach. One step would be for Brussels to launch a formal “infringement proceeding” against the UK that could ultimately lead to the country being hauled before the European Court of Justice.
Brussels has identified legal grounds in the EU and UK’s Brexit treaty that would give the ECJ jurisdiction over the row, even though the court’s remit is limited to breaches of EU law.
Britain would face fines or trade sanctions if it refused to comply with the court’s ruling in the dispute.
In parallel to sending this “letter of formal notice”, Sefcovic told diplomats, Brussels also intends to send a second, “political”, letter to the UK warning that its actions were a breach of good faith, so paving the way for an independent arbitration process.
Sefcovic cautioned at the meeting that the entire plan was still a work in progress, although one diplomat said they came away with the impression it could be initiated within days.
Diplomats said that there was no opposition to the approach at the meeting and that France and other nations closely economically linked to Britain, such as the Netherlands, gave vocal support.
The UK has defended its actions, saying that the grace periods, for example on certification requirements for food travelling from Great Britain to Northern Ireland, needed to be extended to prevent disruption to the Northern Irish economy.
British officials insisted the government's actions were “lawful and necessary”, noting that infringement proceedings were “a common tool”. London is now trying to calm tensions with the EU.
The spat is an early test for post-Brexit relations, and for the EU’s ability to work with Brexit minister Lord David Frost.
The UK’s former chief Brexit negotiator declined to use a “hotline” system put in place by his predecessor Michael Gove and Sefcovic, meaning Brussels was caught unawares when Britain announced the measures last week. Hackles were also raised among EU governments by a Frost article in the Sunday Telegraph telling the bloc to “shake off any remaining ill will towards us for leaving”.
expat007 wrote:Frost is unsuitable as a person handling the whole range of EU-UK relations - at best he can look at trade only, and does so in a belligerent, and therefore dysfunctional manner.
The NIP is not 'just' a protocol dealing with the UK's mutually exclusive demand of "we want a border (sovereignty, trade deals and all that)" and "we really do not want a border in the two places where we have a land connection to the EU" (Gibraltar and NI). It is a compromise to keep the political, cultural, social and regulatory of NI and RoI in a careful balance.
The GFA worked because it was a stroke of genius: It gave Unionists the end of the war and continued "London Rule", it gave Republicans the feeling that, without border, they are in all aspects of daily life already unified with the RoI, and have political representation in Stormont and Human Rights assurance in the ECHR. It gave London the end of violence, It gave Dublin the end of military operations and the destabilising effect the IRA had on the island, it gave the EU visible evidence that cross-border diplomacy is the best way to end violence (after all, that ambition was one of the guiding principles of the founding fathers). It gave the US the support the Irish Vote was hankering for. Everybody 'won' - that was why the people behind this got the peace nobel price.
All of this is based on reformed governance (check out the ethics systems (and employee composition) of PSNI and compare that with the RUC), continued human rights support by the ECHR and 'no visible borders'. The negotiations to get to the GFA took more than a decade, and most of the time was devoted in trying to get the other side to trust 'us" and vice versa.
The current spat about the UK unilaterally extending the grace periods on a few products between GB and the Island of Ireland is akin to making a note about the next service for the car you have just totalled. Frost tries to reduce a fundamentally political, social and cultural problem with deep and bloody historical roots into one of trade and customs regulations, because he can't get the wider dimensions. He does not 'do' politics and diplomacy and his detailed haggling happens in a truly harmful manner.
Being bellicose and jingoistic about the problems in NI has not worked at all for the last 50 years. What makes you think it will now?
...take your common sense with you, and leave your prejudices behind...