The European Commission launched four new proceedings against the United Kingdom on Friday. The reason for this is that the British ‘do not adhere to agreements’ on the so-called Northern Ireland protocol, says the EU body. The criminal proceedings come on top of the case around a law that the British submitted to be able to unilaterally amend Brexit agreements.
Brussels claims that these criminal proceedings have already been postponed for a year in order not to let the mutual relationship deteriorate further. That delay has now lasted long enough: according to the EU, the British have not been cooperating since February. The British bill to unilaterally amend agreements has only further cooled the relationship.
One of the four proceedings revolves around the lack of customs supervision by the British at the ‘new’ border between Great Britain and Northern Ireland. After Brexit, Northern Ireland remained the only part of the UK within the European customs union. The border with Ireland remained open. As a result, there is a need for customs controls on products going to Northern Ireland from England, Wales or Scotland.
According to the EU, the lack of control leads to “an increased risk of smuggling of products through Northern Ireland”. Brussels is afraid that products that do not meet the stricter EU requirements will still end up on the European market.
Furthermore, the proceedings revolve around matters such as excise duties and VAT on products purchased in online stores. The UK now has two months to respond.