Brussels files the United Kingdom for violating the Brexit agreement and tolerating smuggling in Northern Ireland

The Brexit agreements are cracking at times. The European Commission has launched this Wednesday another two infringement procedures against the United Kingdom for its alleged violation of the agreed terms in relation to trade with Northern Ireland. The files are added to the one opened in March of last year and which had been suspended until it was reactivated this week after the Boris Johnson government presented a bill to unilaterally invalidate the Irish Protocol. Brussels now accuses London of having breached customs control commitments, which is facilitating smuggling into Northern Ireland and the entry of illegal products into the EU market through Ireland.

“The violation of international treaties is not acceptable,” said the vice president of the European Commission in charge of relations with London, Maros Sefcovic. Brussels warns that the three open procedures can lead to the European Court of Justice, which could impose a multimillion-dollar sanction on London or even a large daily fine until the United Kingdom complies with the provisions of the agreements for its exit from the EU.

A European sanction more than two years after Brexit was consummated could set Johnson’s conservative ranks on fire, in particular the most eurosceptic wing of a party that claims to have freed itself forever from all community tutelage. But Sefcovic has clarified that “we are not looking for a political victory, we just want a solution that works”.

The Ireland Protocol is part of the EU exit agreement and allows companies from the British province of Northern Ireland to have virtually unlimited access to the EU market. In order to avoid the placement of a border between the two parts of Ireland (the European and the British), the Protocol provides for certain customs and phytosanitary controls that allow the traffic of cross-border goods while preventing the entry of dangerous or illegal products into the circuit. of the European market.

Brussels assures that London has breached the Protocol and has left trade between Northern Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom uncontrolled, which is facilitating smuggling and endangering the integrity of the single European market. “Smuggling is not a theoretical problem, but a very real one,” say community sources. “Throughout 2021, illegal electronic devices, telephones, cigarettes, cocaine or heroin have been confiscated in Ireland,” add the same sources, who assure that “the amounts seized have always been significant.”

The infringement files opened this Wednesday denounce the lack of infrastructure for border controls that London had promised to build and the absence of real-time information that the British customs authorities had to provide to the European ones. In both cases, the first step has been taken, consisting of a summons letter giving London two months to reply. The next step would be a reasoned opinion, with detailed charges against London. And if an agreement is not reached on possible solutions, the Commission would file a complaint with the Court of Justice of the EU, which, based on the Brexit agreement, can impose the same type of fines on the United Kingdom as on any community partner. .

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