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PM defends Brexit plan after EU launches legal action

Boris Johnson’s official spokesperson said government is ‘disappointed’ by EU move

Matt Mathers
Wednesday 15 June 2022 16:29 BST
Starmer says Boris Johnson thinks he’s ‘on Love Island’

Downing Street has defended the government’s plan to override parts of the Northern Ireland protocol after the EU confirmed that it is taking legal action over the UK’s proposed changes to the post-Brexit trading arrangements.

Boris Johnson’s official spokesperson said the government “disappointed” in the EU’s decision to take the issue back through the courts.

“We will consider these documents carefully and respond formally in due course, however we are disappointed the EU has taken this legal action today,” the spokesman said.

“The EU’s proposed approach, which doesn’t differ from what they have said previously, would increase burdens on business and citizens and take us backwards from where we are currently.

“The infractions are related to the implementation of the protocol in our recently published Bill. It is difficult to see how scrapping grace periods and adding additional controls and checks would be the situation better.”


Your questions on the protocol bill and ‘bonfire’ of EU rules - answered live

The never-ending Brexit row between the UK and EU is entering a new phase as Brussels launches legal action against London in response to its plan to override parts of the Northern Ireland protocol.

Got a question about how we got here, or what might happen next? Our politics correspondent Adam Forrest will be on hand from 3pm to answer as many of your queries as possible.

To ask a question, simply leave a message in the comments section of the article below:

Brexit: Your questions on Northern Ireland protocol answered live

As the government finally reveals its radical legislation, Adam Forrest is ready to tackle your questions on what happens next in our latest ‘Ask Me Anything’ event

Matt Mathers15 June 2022 11:30

Sefcovic - EU doesn’t want to ‘interfere’ in getting DUP back into power-sharing

The EU is not seeking to “interfere” in the process of getting  the Democratic Unionist Party back into government in Northern Ireland.

The party is refusing to enter power-sharing with Sinn Fein in protest at the Brexit protocol and would not give any guarantees after London published draft plans to override parts of the deal.

Speaking at a press conference in Brussels,  Maros Sefcovic, the EU Commission president,  said the EU had "no intention to interfere in this process" and stressed the bloc was not aiming for a "political victory", when asked how the DUP could be convinced to return to power-sharing.

European Commission Vice President Maros Sefcovic (EbS)

Maros Sefcovic told a press conference in Brussels: "We respect first and foremost the the Good Friday/Belfast agreement in all its dimensions".

He added: "We do not seek a political victory, what we want is to find a workable, long-term solution ... giving the legal certainty to the operators in Northern Ireland how the protocol would be implemented…

"What we need is the political will from London to engage with us, to work on smoothing operations and implementation of the protocol and to do it in a way that brings lasting benefits for the people of Northern Ireland".

Matt Mathers15 June 2022 11:15

Labour shadow minister ‘hopes’ UK will re-join EU single market

A member of Sir Keir Starmer’s shadow cabinet told party was recorded telling supporters that she hopes the UK can “eventually” re-join the EU single market and customs union.

Our politics correspondent Adam Forrest reports:

Labour shadow minister ‘hopes’ UK will re-join EU single market

‘We certainly need to renegotiate the deal,’ Anna McMorrin tells Labour supporters

Matt Mathers15 June 2022 11:00

Sefcovic: ‘Door remains open for dialogue’

The EU’s “door remains open for dialogue” despite it taking legal action against the UK, Maros Sefcovic has said.

He told a press conference in Brussels: “We want to discuss these solutions with the UK government.

“Given that the UK hasn’t sat down at the table with us since February, I think it’s high time to show some political will to find joint solutions.

“The UK has stated that for us to talk, the EU must be willing to change the protocol.

“On the contrary, we have always said that our package of proposals has never been a take-it-or-leave-it offer – it can evolve.”

He emphasised the need for safeguards to protect the single market and said these conditions were not for the UK to change.

“It’s simply and legally and politically inconceivable that the UK Government decides unilaterally what kind of goods can enter our single market.”

Matt Mathers15 June 2022 10:46

Commission issues statement

The European Commission has published a statement after vice president Maros Sefcovic confirmed the bloc will take legal action against the UK over its plan to overdrive parts of Brexit’s Northern Ireland protocol.

The statement says: The European Commission has today launched infringement proceedings against the United Kingdom for not complying with significant parts of the Protocol on Ireland / Northern Ireland. Despite repeated calls on the UK government to implement the Protocol, it has failed to do so.

“This is a clear breach of international law. The aim of these infringement proceedings is to restore compliance with the Protocol in a number of key areas where the UK hasn’t been implementing it properly – ultimately with the goal of protecting the health and safety of EU citizens.

At the same time, the Commission is today providing additional details on the possible solutions it put forward in October 2021 to facilitate the movement of goods between Great Britain and Northern Ireland. The position papers published today explain how the movement of goods between Great Britain and Northern Ireland can be significantly facilitated.

“The Commission calls on the UK government to engage seriously and constructively with these suggested solutions. As usual, the Commission will proceed in close collaboration and constant dialogue with the European Parliament and Council.

Matt Mathers15 June 2022 10:36

‘This is illegal’: EU launches legal action against Boris Johnson for breaking international law

As we’ve been reporting, the European Commission vice-president Maros Sefcovic has been giving a press conference responding to the UK’s plan to take unilateral action to overide parts of Brexit’s Northern Ireland protocol.

This is a developing story. Our policy correspondent Jon Stone will have more as it comes in:

EU launches legal action against Boris Johnson for breaking international law

Brussels has announced it is taking legal action against the UK government after Boris Johnson pushed ahead with plans to overwrite parts of the Brexit agreement.

Matt Mathers15 June 2022 10:25

Protocol bill ‘extremely damaging'

The government’s Northern Ireland protocol Bill is "extremely damaging to mutual trust and respect between the EU and the UK", Maros Sefcovic said.

The European Commission vice-president said: "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."

Matt Mathers15 June 2022 10:20

Sefcovic - UK bill breaks 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.”

European Commission vice-president Maros Sefcovic told reporters in Brussels the UK Government had set out to “unilaterally break international law”.

Matt Mathers15 June 2022 10:17

EU launches legal action in response to protocol bill

The EU has announced fresh legal 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.

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.

The two new infringement proceedings announced on Wednesday relate to alleged UK failures around Sanitary and Phytosanitary rules which are checks on agri-food produce entering NI from GB.

Matt Mathers15 June 2022 10:10

EU to set out protocol response

The European Union will set out its response to Boris Johnson’s plan to override Northern Ireland’s Brexit deal, with fresh legal action expected against the UK.

European Commission vice president Maros Sefcovic is set to resume legal action against the UK that was paused in September last year "in a spirit of constructive cooperation".

Mr Sefcovic believes Mr Johnson’s unilateral action to effectively tear up elements of the Brexit deal signed by the Prime Minister "goes directly against that spirit".

As well as resuming that frozen legal process over claims the UK was failing to properly implement the Northern Ireland Protocol, the EU could also begin a further round of infringement proceedings against the government.

Mr Sefcovic will deliver an update at a press conference in Brussels at 10am.

Matt Mathers15 June 2022 10:01

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