by N. Peter Kramer
The EU has paused its legal action against the UK for alleged breaches of the Northern Ireland Protocol. The legal action was started in March after the UK took unilateral action to change the implementation of the protocol. At that time the UK delayed new checks on food, parcels and pets entering Northern Ireland from Great Britain.
The Northern Ireland Protocol was agreed to avoid a hard border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, a part of The United Kingdom. However, the NIP splits the UK in 2 parts, Northern Ireland on one side and Great Britain on the other side of a trade border in the Irish Sea.
Last week, the UK published proposals from the protocol which amounted to a request for a major renegotiation given the untenability of the situation. It also asked for a standstill period, which would involve pausing the legal action and extending so-called grace periods. In a kind of Pavlov reaction, Commission President Ursula von der Leyen immediately let know (probably without any knowledge of the content of the request), that any renegotiation is impossible.
Later on a Commission spokesman said, ‘with regards to the request for a standstill, the Commission will carefully assess the new proposals made by the UK. In order to provide the necessary space to reflect and find durable solutions we have decided at this stage not to move to the next stage of the legal action’.
A UK government spokesperson told they had received ‘a constructive reply from the Commission. We look forward to engaging in talks with the EU in the weeks ahead to progress the proposals in our command paper. As we set out in this paper, significant changes are needed to ensure the protocol is sustainable for the future’.
Earlier, the Commission published already proposals for simplifying some aspects of the protocol, including a plan for ensuring the continued supply of medicines from Great Britain to Northern Ireland.