EU launches four new legal actions against UK government for breaking Northern Ireland protocol

The European Commission has launched four new legal actions against the UK government for breaking parts of the Northern Ireland Brexit deal.

The so-called “infringement procedures” were announced on Friday and are in addition to others announced on 15 June this year.

Brussels says the UK is failing to impose the right customs checks on goods coming from Northern Ireland to Great Britain, which it says could help smugglers trying to breach export EU controls.

The other three breaches relate to the UK not properly implementing EU rules on excise duty collection, VAT for e-commerce, and alcohol duty – which the Commission says poses a “fiscal risk” to the bloc and could cost it money.

The three infringement cases previously opened and escalated in June related to certification of agricultural products, so-called “sanitary and phytosanitary” checks on food, and failing to provide the EU with the right statistics as agreed under the Brexit deal.

The European Commission first mooted legal action against the UK in March 2021 but put the process on hold while it worked with the UK to come to a solution.

The UK says the deal it signed up to is affecting trade between Great Britain and Northern Ireland and that it needs to be changed. While the Northern Ireland protocol has public support overall, it has upset some unionists who take issue with the new barriers to trade between GB and NI.

It comes after the Treasury admitted on Thursday that the Brexit divorce bill had climbed to £42.5bn, a roughly £10 billion increase on the figure calculated by the Office for Budget Responsibility when Britain left the bloc. The increase was largely due to an increase in pension liabilities for EU officials that the UK has agreed to pay.

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