Boris Johnson on Brexit trade deal 'teething problems'
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EU states, led by France, backed plans set out last night by the bloc’s new Brexit chief Maros Sefcovic at a private meeting of senior diplomats. The Slovak Commission vice-president could launch formal legal proceedings as early as today, sources have told Express.co.uk. Eurocrats are furious that Downing Street has announced it intends to unilaterally delay the introduction of customs checks on supermarket and other agricultural goods shipped between mainland Britain and Northern Ireland.
No10 argues the temporary measures are designed to give people and businesses extra time to adapt to life under the Brexit divorce deal’s protocol to avoid a hard border.
To keep the Irish border open, Northern Ireland effectively remains part of the EU’s single market and some checks are now made on some products arriving from the rest of the UK.
Whitehall officials fear the EU demands to maintain its burdensome bureaucracy are risking a flare-up in violence after Unionists were left outraged by the introduction of trade controls in the Irish Sea.
Brussels is now planning a “twin-track” retaliation that could ultimately result in the Government being hauled before the European Court of Justice.
Mr Sefcovic told diplomats the Commission will trigger formal legal proceedings against Britain for failing to properly implement the Northern Ireland Protocol.
The EU’s Brexit chief believes he has identified legal grounds in the Withdrawal Agreement to ensure European judges have jurisdiction over the row.
As a result, Britain could be slapped with huge multi-million pound fines or trade sanctions if it refuses to follow the court’s ruling.
Mr Sefcovic will also send a “political” warning to Downing Street, insisting the Government’s action are in breach of good faith provisions.
An EU source told Express.co.uk: “They’re already substantively breaching the Protocol by not properly implementing it in the first place.
“Good faith is an angle too.”
Brussels will argue Britain has not yet completed work on new permanent border control posts and handed the bloc’s customs officials access to trade databases.
The legal action is likely to add more fuel to the fire in the already fractious post-Brexit relationship between the UK and EU.
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Tempers have flared this week after Brexit minister Lord Frost told the bloc to “stop sulking” and “shake off any remaining ill will towards us for leaving.
And European Council President Charles Michel last night sparked more controversy after he falsely claimed Britain had a vaccines export ban in place.
Downing Street is set to defend itself for unilateral extending the grace periods from EU red tape for a further six months.
Government sources say it is the “absolute minimum” to protect vital supermarket supply chains in Northern Ireland and prevent food shortages.
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An insider said: “At the moment unfortunately we are not seeing from the EU the pragmatism required to make the Protocol work for the citizens of Northern Ireland.
“Their approach is having real world, practical consequences for the everyday lives of people and their communities – contrary to the guarantee the Protocol itself provides.
“That’s why we are extending these temporary operational steps, which simply reflect the reality that more time is needed for businesses to adapt to and implement new requirements.”
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