Infringement procedure by the European Commission against the United Kingdom over breach of obligations under the Protocol on Ireland and Northern Ireland

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Publication Date 2021-
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Information Guide concerning the infringement procedure launched by the European Commission against the United Kingdom (UK) on 15 March 2021.

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On 3 March 2021, the UK Government stated an intention to unilaterally extend the "grace period" on paperwork concerning the movement of goods and pet travel from Great Britain to Northern Ireland. This was criticised by the European Union as a delay to the full application of - and therefore a potential breach to - the Protocol on Ireland and Northern Ireland. The Commission argued that this was conducted without previous consultation or discussion in the bodies established by the Withdrawal Agreement signed between the two sides as a result of Brexit - the withdrawal of the UK from the European Union (EU). Previous discussions on this matter had been unsuccessful.

As a result, the European Commission addressed a Letter of Formal Notice to the United Kingdom on 15 March 2021. The Letter launches an infringement procedure against the UK for breaching substantive provisions of the Protocol, as well as the good faith obligation under the Agreement. The UK was given one month to submit its observations to the Letter. In parallel, a political letter was sent to the UK's co-chair of the EU-UK Joint Committee. This letter calls on the UK government to rectify and refrain from putting into practice the statements and guidance published earlier in the month, and to engage in bilateral consultations for a solution to be found.

Related Links
Commentary and Analysis
LSE: Brexit Blog, 04/03/2021: Ireland/Northern Ireland Protocol: the EU must play the long-game
Institute for Government: Blog, 05/03/2021: Cooperation not confrontation should be at the heart of UK–EU discussions on the protocol
BBC News, 10/03/2021: Brexit: What will happen when EU-GB grace periods expire?
Institute for Government: Blog, 12/03/2021: Delaying Brexit border checks solves some problems but creates others
BBC News: Explainers, 15/03/2021: Brexit: What is the Northern Ireland Protocol and why are there checks?

Politico, 24/02/2021: No agreement on Northern Ireland grace periods in latest EU-UK talks
Reuters, 03/03/2021: EU vows legal response as UK moves unilaterally on Northern Ireland
Euronews, 03/03/2021: EU will go to court over UK's 'unilateral action' on Northern Ireland Protocol
The Irish Times, 03/03/2021: Government brands UK move to delay checks on goods entering North from Britain ‘deeply unhelpful’
Politico, 03/03/2021: EU says UK risks breaking law with solo bid to ease Northern Irish checks
France24, 03/03/2021: EU warns UK over delayed N.Ireland food checks
EurActiv, 04/03/2021: New Brexit row after UK extends exemption to Irish border checks
The Guardian, 10/03/2021: Brexit: EU poised to take legal action against UK over Northern Ireland
The Guardian, 11/03/2021: UK forced to delay checks on imports from EU by six months
BBC News, 12/03/2021: Brexit: UK delays border checks on EU goods into Great Britain
Sky News, 15/03/2021: Brexit: UK hits back at EU for launching legal action over Northern Ireland Brexit 'breach'
Wales Online, 15/03/2021: European Union begins legal action against the UK over post-Brexit trade 'breach'

UK Parliament: Written Statements, 03/03/2021: Statement made by the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland
European Commission: Statement by Vice-President Maroš Šefčovič following today's announcement by the UK government regarding the Protocol on Ireland / Northern Ireland (3 March 2021)
UK Government: Press Release, 03/03/2021: Lord Frost call with European Commission Vice President Maroš Šefčovič: 3 March 2021
UK Parliament: Written Statements, 11/03/2021: Statement made by the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and Minister for the Cabinet Office
European Commission: Press Release, 15/03/2021: Withdrawal Agreement: Commission sends letter of formal notice to the United Kingdom for breach of its obligations under the Protocol on Ireland and Northern Ireland
European Commission: Letter from Vice-President Maroš Šefčovič to David Frost, 15 March 2021

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