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EU launches infringement procedures against UK

July 22, 2022

The European Union has said the UK failed to comply with significant parts of the protocol governing post-Brexit trading arrangements for Northern Ireland.

The British flag outside EU offices
The move builds on other legal proceedings launched by the EU back in JuneImage: Daniel Kalker/dpa/picture alliance

The European Union has launched four new infringement procedures against the United Kingdom, a non-member state, for failing to comply with significant parts of the protocol governing post-Brexit trading arrangements for Northern Ireland.

The latest dispute relates to commitments on customs requirements, general excise duties, duties on alcohol, and VAT for e-commerce — all of which the EU says are not being properly implemented by the UK.

"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," the European Commission said in a statement on Friday.

"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."

On Thursday, the British lower house passed the Northern Ireland Protocol Bill, which would scrap some of the rules governing its arrangement with the EU.

Uncertainty over Northern Ireland's political future

EU sounds the alarm on the single market

The new infringement procedures announced by the EU on Friday build on prior legal action taken by the EU against the UK back in June. There are now a total of seven infringement procedures pending against the UK.

This time around, the EU accused the UK of not enforcing EU customs requirements on goods exported from Northern Ireland to Great Britain.

"This significantly increases the risk of smuggling via Northern Ireland," the European Commission said, nothing that the export of some goods is restricted or even prohibited.

The European Commission also said that in relation to small and artisanal alcohol producers, "any divergence from EU harmonized excise duties would also distort competition in the supply of those goods within the single market," of which Northern Ireland is a part.

The procedures could result in the European Court of Justice issuing fines, however this is a potential consequence that would likely take year or more to be imposed.

zc/wmr (AFP, Reuters)