THE EUROPEAN Commission has launched fresh legal action against Britain after the British parliament's lower house cleared a bill to scrap some of the rules governing post-Brexit trading arrangements for Northern Ireland.
Four new infringement procedures were triggered, with the Commissions saying Britain's unwillingness to engage in meaningful discussions on the protocol governing trading arrangements and the House of Commons' passage of the Northern Ireland Protocol bill undermined a spirit of cooperation.
It brings to seven the number of "infringement procedures" the European Commission has launched over what it sees is Britain's failure to respect Northern Ireland trade aspects of the Brexit divorce deal agreed by both sides.
"In a spirit of constructive cooperation, the Commission refrained from launching certain infringement procedures for over a year to create the space to look for joint solutions with the UK," a statement ready.
"However, the UK's unwillingness to engage in meaningful discussion since last February and the continued passage of the Northern Ireland Protocol Bill through the UK Parliament go directly against this spirit.
"The aim of these infringement procedures is to secure compliance with the Protocol in a number of key areas. This compliance is essential for Northern Ireland to continue to benefit from its privileged access to the European Single Market, and is necessary to protect the health, security and safety of EU citizens as well as the integrity of the Single Market."
The four proceedings related to:
- Failure to comply with the applicable customs requirements, supervision requirements and risk controls on the movement of goods from Northern Ireland to Great Britain.
- Failure to notify the transposition of EU legislation laying down EU rules on excise duties, which will become applicable from 13 February 2023.
- Failure to notify the transposition of EU rules on excise duties on alcohol and alcoholic beverages, which facilitate access for small and artisan producers to lower excise duty rates, among other provisions.
- Failure to implement EU rules on Value Added Tax (VAT) for e-commerce, namely the Import One-Stop Shop (IOSS).
The procedures could result in the European Court of Justice (ECJ) imposing fines, although this would likely not happen for at least a year.
London has proposed scrapping some checks on goods from the rest of the United Kingdom arriving in Northern Ireland and challenged the role of the ECJ to decide on parts of the post-Brexit arrangement agreed by the EU and Britain.
The arrangement was set to avoid reinstating border controls between Ireland and Northern Ireland, but has inflamed unionist parties.
The commission has given Britain two months to respond.