European Commission vice president Maros Sefcovic said Boris Johnson’s actions to unilaterally override elements of the Brexit deal are “illegal” as he announced a fresh round of legal action by Brussels against the UK.
The EU announced new action against the UK as part of a series of measures in response to the Government’s move to unilaterally scrap parts of the Northern Ireland Protocol.
The European Commission is also resuming legal proceedings against the UK that were shelved last year to facilitate negotiations on post-Brexit trade.
Maros Sefcovic and Boris Johnson PA
Mr Sefcovic said the UK Government had set out to "unilaterally break international law" Hollie Adams
The stalled legal action related to the UK’s unilateral extension of protocol grace periods in 2021.
Resuming the proceedings, the EU is issuing the UK with a ‘reasoned opinion’ and giving it two months to respond. If the UK does not respond to the bloc’s satisfaction, it will refer the matter to European Court of Justice.
Mr Sefcovic told reporters in Brussels the UK Government had set out to “unilaterally break international law”.
The plan would mean “breaking an agreement that protects peace and stability in Northern Ireland, an agreement reached together only three years ago” by Boris Johnson’s Government and the EU.
Mr Sefcovic said: “Let there be no doubt: there is no legal nor political justification whatsoever for unilaterally changing an international agreement.
“Opening the door to unilaterally changing an international agreement is a breach of international law as well.
“So let’s call a spade a spade: this is illegal.”
The Government’s Northern Ireland Protocol Bill is “extremely damaging to mutual trust and respect between the EU and the UK”, Mr Sefcovic said.
He added: “It has created deep uncertainty and casts a shadow over our overall co-operation, all at a time when respect for international agreements has never been more important.
“That is why the Commission has today decided to take legal action against the UK for not complying with significant parts of the protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland.”
Mr Sefcovic also added the UK Government’s plans for Northern Ireland trade would lead to a “monstrous mountain of paperwork” for businesses.
He brandished three pages of “simple” and “oven-ready” paperwork that businesses would need to fill out under the EU’s proposals.
“Permanent solutions and simple operations of the protocol proposed by the EU versus constant uncertainty with UK ministers having open hand to change the rules on a whim," he continued.