April 10, 2021

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Brexit dispute over Northern Ireland: EU launches action against Great Britain

Brexit dispute over Northern Ireland
The European Union launches operations against Great Britain

Brexit remains a bone of contention between Brussels and London. After the tone has recently become harsher due to vaccine exports, the EU is now launching action against Great Britain: London’s unrecognized interpretation of Northern Ireland rules.

The EU has launched action against Great Britain for violating the EU withdrawal agreement. This was announced by the European Commission in Brussels. The background is a controversy over Brexit special rules for the British province of Northern Ireland. Brussels has accused London of arbitrarily changing contracts and thus violating the agreement negotiated in 2019.

Violation measures will put further pressure on already weakened EU-UK relations. The so-called Northern Ireland protocol in the withdrawal agreement provides that certain rules of the EU’s domestic market will continue to apply to Northern Ireland. It should establish land border controls with the EU state of Ireland on the common island. But it also forms a freight border between Northern Ireland and the rest of Great Britain. To control imports. Even though the offer period is a few months with reduced restrictions, companies still report problems. In Northern Ireland, supermarket shelves were often empty.

The first phase of the transition should be completed by the end of March after the end of Brexit at the beginning of the year. Accordingly, suppliers of animal products must have health certificates for issuance from the UK to Northern Ireland. But British Ireland announced a unilateral extension of the Northern Ireland Protocol, indicating “often overstatement”. Crisis negotiations between the EU and Great Britain did not help. A few days later, London again lifted a ban on imports of potted plants from the UK.

“Breach of contract and trust”

Moroz Sepkovic, vice president of the European Commission in charge, responded harshly and blamed the British government for violating the agreement and trust. The Irish government was also outraged. British Brexit representative David Frost responded that British actions were legal. He talked about “temporary, functional steps”.

The question of Northern Ireland regarding Britain’s exit from the EU in 2020 is considered a very difficult one. In the British province, supporters of an independent Ireland and trade unionists with Great Britain fought each other for decades. Conflict with Good Friday Agreement removed in 1998. After that, both parts of the island became a common economic area with no boundaries. The fear is that Brexit will divide the island again. As for the UK, Northern Ireland rules are politically sensitive because Northern Ireland may feel isolated from the rest of the UK. On the other hand, the EU insists on import restrictions in Northern Ireland because without them a kind of door to the EU domestic market could arise. At worst, restrictions must be imposed on the inner-Irish border – politically unacceptable to the EU and its member Ireland.

The tone between London and Brussels is now very tense, most recently in the conflict over the corona vaccine. EU Council President Charles Michael has accused Great Britain of imposing an export embargo. London angrily rejected this. The main focus is on the product of the British-Swedish manufacturer AstraZeneca, which produces large quantities in Great Britain and delivers there. However, the company did not comply with supply obligations to the EU, including export restrictions.

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