The EU has expressed anger over MPs’ backing for legislation reversing post-Brexit arrangements for Northern Ireland by launching four more legal cases against the UK government.
The allegations relate to past failures to implement the 2019 deal struck with Boris Johnson, but the EU has been spurred into action by parliament passing a bill that would tear up the current arrangements.
On Wednesday, the Northern Ireland Protocol Bill passed the House of Commons at third reading – the final stage in the House of Commons – by 267 votes to 195, and will come to the Lords in the autumn.
The four new court cases – which allege a failure to apply EU customs, VAT and excise rules – come on top of three other cases already in progress which are heading for a judgment by the Court of Justice European.
The EU court has the power to impose multi-million euro daily fines on the UK and its judgments could be the first step towards the bloc taking punitive action through mechanisms under the Brexit agreements.
Maroš Šefčovič, the EU’s Brexit Commissioner, has not ruled out imposing tariffs on UK goods sold in the EU, calling the terms of the Northern Ireland Protocol Bill “illegal”. North.
In a statement on Friday, the commission said it was taking legal action partly in light of “the continued passage of the Northern Ireland Protocol Bill through the UK parliament”, which “will directly against” a spirit of seeking common solutions. to current issues.
Under the protocol agreed by Johnson in 2019, Northern Ireland effectively remains in the single market and EU customs rules are applied in the Irish Sea to avoid a border on the island of Ireland.
Under the proposed legislation, the UK government would scrap checks for businesses selling goods from Britain destined for Northern Ireland rather than the EU.
The UK government is considering the creation of a ‘green lane’ with fewer checks for those selling goods destined for Northern Ireland and a ‘red lane’ with existing checks for goods destined for countries in the EU.
EU officials say they see no major differences between this proposal and those tabled by the European Commission for an “express lane”.
However, the legislation would also allow UK companies exporting to Northern Ireland to choose between meeting EU or UK regulatory standards, which are expected to increasingly diverge. EU officials said this posed a risk to the single market and that the current arrangements and the failure to implement controls had already given a boost to smugglers.
Other measures include changing the oversight of trade disputes so that they are resolved by independent arbitration rather than the European Court of Justice.
Liz Truss, the UK foreign secretary who drafted the bill, is the favorite in the race to become the next Conservative party leader and prime minister after Boris Johnson resigns. She has defended the Northern Ireland Protocol Bill as proof that she is making “tough decisions”.