As expected, the UK government’s decision to extend certain unilateral transition periods around Brexit will have dire consequences.
On Monday, double messages were sent from Brussels: an official announcement that the European Union is now starting a violation of the free movement of goods rules, and a political call for talks.
The latest letter – sent by European Commission Brexit President Marus Sivkovic to his British counterpart David Frost – urges the British government to “correct and refrain” from taking unilateral action and instead enter into talks with the European Union.
Both letters could fall into a fine or other sanctions from the European Union
The dispute relates to the so-called Northern Ireland Protocol, which stipulates how and when various goods should be examined to meet conditions for trade with Northern Ireland that the two parties agreed in negotiations on Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union.
“The European Union and the United Kingdom agreed on the protocol together. We must also implement it together. The unilateral decisions and violations of international law by the United Kingdom undermine the trust between us,” Sevkovic said in a press release.
The reason is that the British government last week, on its own, postponed the implementation of new internal controls until this fall at the earliest.
‘Temporary and technical’
However, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson does not appear to be angry. He asserts that it is mostly a matter of technical measures and the need to ensure that trade not only operates between the north and south of Ireland, but also between the east and west of the United Kingdom.
It’s just what we’re trying to guarantee, with some interim and technical measures that we think make sense. But Johnson says of course, we look forward to our discussions with our friends in the European Union and see where things go for us.
To avoid border controls that could lead to unrest in Northern Ireland, the European Union and the United Kingdom agreed in Brexit negotiations to allow Northern Ireland to continue complying with EU customs rules. Instead, internal controls are needed within the UK for deliveries to and from Northern Ireland.
However, the controls have been criticized by the so-called unionist parties in Northern Ireland, which worried that the area was still part of the British Empire. Threats of violence from paramilitary groups contributed to the UK government’s decision to extend a transition period before the controls were introduced in earnest.
The European Union, in turn, responded to Britain’s implementation of the measures on its own. The European Parliament has protested, for example, by delaying its formal approval of a new trade agreement between the European Union and the United Kingdom.