Brexit: EU pauses legal action over Northern Ireland deal

28 July 2021, 14:13

The Northern Ireland Protocol will mean goods will have to be checked when entering the single market from Great Britain.
The Northern Ireland Protocol will mean goods will have to be checked when entering the single market from Great Britain. Picture: Alamy

By Emma Soteriou

The EU has paused legal action against the UK over the Northern Ireland Protocol.

The decision was made in hopes further discussions could help resolve any outstanding issues.

It comes after Brexit minister Lord Frost previously demanded significant changes be made to the Protocol - an element of the deal he negotiated - saying "we cannot go on as we are".

He called for a "standstill" period, preserving current grace periods and suspending legal action while changes were negotiated.

An EU spokeswoman said "constructive discussions" were important moving forward, but there would not be a renegotiation of the Protocol.

Read more: Business Secretary says Northern Ireland Protocol is 'not set in stone'

Read more: 'We cannot go on as we are': EU to 'find new path' over Northern Ireland

"While the EU will not renegotiate the Protocol, we stand ready to address all the issues arising in the practical implementation of the Protocol in a spirit of good faith and cooperation," she said.

"It is essential that we continue constructive discussions in the weeks ahead.

"With regards to the request for a standstill, the Commission will carefully assess the new proposals made by the UK, in accordance with the necessary consultation procedures, both internally, and with the European Parliament.

"In order to provide the necessary space to reflect on these issues and find durable solutions to the implementation of the Protocol, we have decided, at this stage, not to move to the next stage of the infringement procedure, started in March."

Read more: Sir Jeffrey Donaldson: PM hasn't delivered Brexit promises to Northern Ireland

A UK Government spokeswoman said: "We have received a constructive reply from the Commission in response to our request for a standstill on existing arrangements.

"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 the Command Paper last week, significant changes are needed to ensure the Protocol is sustainable for future."

The Protocol keeps Northern Ireland in the EU's single market for goods.

It was put in place to ensure there would be no hard border with Ireland, but it has instead placed a trade barrier in the Irish Sea.

As a result, there could be checks on goods being sent from Britain to the single market as well as potential prohibitions on products that do not comply with EU rules.