UK-EU Brexit row continues, EU leaders threaten legal action
- EU could launch legal action against the UK over an extension to the Northern Ireland grace period this week
- UK government said they extended the grace period to give businesses time to adapt
- European Council President Charles Michel accuses Britain of banning vaccine exports
- UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson denies vaccine export block claims
Just when you thought that Brexit arguments were a product of the past, tensions between the EU and the UK have erupted, and the two sides now appear to be at a significant crossroads.
According to the latest reports, Brussels is set to launch legal action against Britain following UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s decision to extend the grace period for Northern Ireland – a move that dismantles the EU’s red tape.
Mr Johnson defended his government’s decision to temporarily extend the grace period, stating that the seventh-month extension will help protect the flow of goods and foods to NI supermarkets and give businesses time to adapt to post-Brexit trade rules and regulations.
Earlier this week, the Prime Minister dismissed recent trade issues as “teething problems” and insisted that the UK and the EU could resolve the Brexit row with “goodwill” and “imagination”.
However, newly-appointed Brexit Chief Maros Sefcovic accused the UK of breaching international law as both sides did not approve a deal.
Mr Sefcovic held a private meeting with European ambassadors and put forward a proposal to launch legal proceedings against the UK.
While some of the terms are still being hashed out, the European Commission Vice President received a unanimous seal of approval, and he said legal action could begin as early as today.
Brussels and London agreed that Northern Ireland would remain part of the EU’s single market during Brexit talks to prevent a hard Irish border, meaning some goods and foods coming from other parts of Britain are required to go under more elaborate customs checks.
However, the new customs checks have resulted in border delays, and supply chains are being disrupted, which has sparked protest from some unionist parties.
The UK government’s actions have received widespread support from Britons, many of which have slammed Brussels for trying to keep the UK tied down to EU rules.
Tory MP and Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Brandon Lewis, said ministers have had to take action to protect the interests of the country, referring to growing fears over a food shortage in Northern Ireland.
Nonetheless, the EU is going ahead with plans for a “twin-track” retaliation, which could see the British government stand before the European Court of Justice.
EU to launch two paralegal moves against the UK
EU Commission Vice President Maros Šefčovič, who is in charge of implementing the Brexit agreement, said the UK’s decision to extend the grace period without consulting the European Union was a significant concern.
Mr Sefcovic accused the UK of breaching international law and worsening the already rocky relationship between the two sides by making a “clear departure” from cooperation.
The UK will have several weeks to respond to the EU’s legal proceedings but could be punished or fined even if the government agrees to act per Brussels demands.
According to the latest reports, the European Commission is also preparing to take legal action against the UK for invoking Article 167 of the Brexit treaty, which states that both sides should consult each other on the implementation and application of the agreement.
The EU is believed to be launching a second legal track in response to Lord David’s Frost abrasive approach to the matter.
It has been rumoured that Lord Frost replaced Michael Gove as the UK’s Brexit representative amid concerns that the Cabinet Office minister was “too friendly” with EU leaders.
The EU has also launched an attack on the UK over blocking COVID-19 vaccine exports, sparking a fresh diplomatic row between them.
EU accuses the UK of banning coronavirus vaccine exports
European Council President, Charles Michel, has accused the UK of imposing an “outright ban” on coronavirus vaccine exports in the latest of several acrimonious clashes between London and Brussels.
The bitter row comes as the UK prepares to ramp up its vaccination rollout to 500,000 people a day, and European leaders continue to be pressured by the bloc’s laggard distribution of vaccines.
Vaccines have been a critical source of conflict between the EU and the UK in recent months, and the European Union has received heavy criticism for its slow vaccine rollout.
Compared to the UK, which has inoculated more than a third of its adult population, Bloomberg research shows that only 6% of people across the bloc have been vaccinated.
On Tuesday, European Council President Charles Michel said the UK and the US were guilty of blocking COVID-19 vaccine exports produced in their country.
UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab was quick to respond to Mr Michel claims, which he said were “completely false”, and criticised the European politician for publishing false information.
Boris Johnson also commented on the development, highlighting evidence showing the UK has donated more than GBP 540M to the Covax initiative, which exports vaccines to less developed countries.
PM Boris Johnson rejects EU’s claim that Britain has banned vaccine exports
On Wednesday, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson denied the claim made by Charles Michel that the UK has imposed an outright ban on exported coronavirus vaccines and demanded an apology from the European Council President.
In an address to the Commons, Mr Johnson said to ministers: “Let me be clear: we have not blocked the export of a single Covid-19 vaccine or vaccine components.”
He went on to say that he stands against “vaccine nationalism in all its forms” and stressed the importance of cooperation so that the world can escape the grip of the virus.
A UK government source accused Charles Michel’s of engaging in a “distraction exercise” to deflect attention away from the bloc’s laggard rollout.
It’s no secret that the EU’s vaccination programme has been a bumpy ride as the bloc has reported distribution and production issues with the Pfizer/BioNTech, Moderna and Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccines.
Earlier in the year, the Commission made it mandatory for manufacturers to seek permission to export COVID vaccines to non-EU countries and attempted to pass regulations that would have breached Northern Ireland protocol.
After Dominic Raab exploded over Mr Michel’s “vaccine lies”, the European Council President tweeted: “there are different ways of imposing bans or restrictions on vaccines/medicines” but failed to elaborate any further.
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