Brussels has launched legal action against the UK over alleged breaches of the two sides’ Brexit deal on Northern Ireland, escalating a dispute with soured relations, which could lead to British goods being hit with tariffs. On Monday, the European Commission initiated a process that could lead to Britain being hauled before the European Court of Justice and facing trade sanctions.
Brussels said steps by the UK government earlier this month to unilaterally ease trading conditions for Northern Irish businesses amounted to a breach of the two sides’ Brexit treaty.
The British plans were a “violation of international law” and “an enormous problem,” said an EU official, adding that only EU-UK agreements could give Northern Ireland the necessary certainty about trade.
EU officials said that Maros Sefcovic, the EU’s Brexit commissioner, had written to ease trading conditions for Northern Irish businesses, unilaterally putting the unilateral steps into practice, and call for work on joint solutions for problems encountered by a company.
Britain earlier this month proposed to prolong grace periods from rules that kick in as part of the Northern Ireland deal, which is designed to prevent a hard trade border on the island of Ireland by applying checks on goods entering Northern Ireland from Great Britain.