Tuesday 8 June 2021 8:52 am

EU warns it will start trade war if UK overrides Brexit treaty's Northern Ireland protocol

The EU has warned Boris Johnson that the bloc is ready to act “firmly and resolutely” to ensure the UK abides by its commitments in the Northern Ireland Protocol, as part of the UK-EU Brexit deal.

The UK is unilaterally planning to extend a “grace period” to allow Northern Irish shops to continue selling chilled meats, including sausages and mince, from Britain once it expires at the end of this month.

However, the European Commission vice president Maros Sefcovic said they would “not be shy” in taking action to ensure that the UK abides by its international commitments, he EU official wrote in The Daily Telegraph today.

The UK angered Brussels in recent months by unilaterally extending grace periods in the protocol on supermarket goods and parcels.

Ahead of talks tomorrow with Brexit minister Lord Frost to discuss the implementation of the protocol, Sefcovic warned the commission would not tolerate further failures of compliance by London.

“Unfortunately, we see numerous and fundamental gaps in the UK’s implementation – even though the protocol entered into force over 17 months ago,” he wrote.

“Mutually agreed compliance paths, with concrete deadlines and milestones for the UK to fulfil its existing obligations, would therefore be an important stepping stone – and, I believe, a credible outcome of this joint committee,” Sefcovic added.

“If this does not happen, and if the UK takes further unilateral action over the coming weeks, the EU will not be shy in reacting swiftly, firmly and resolutely to ensure that the UK abides by its international law obligations,” he said.

Sefcovic said the protocol was the “best solution” to ensure there was no return of a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic.

“No-one knows it better than Lord Frost himself, then the UK’s chief Brexit negotiator,” he said.

G7 this week

The warning comes amid reports that US President Joe Biden will use this week’s G7 summit to impress upon Johnson the importance that he attaches to maintaining the protocol.

Ahead of the gathering in Cornwall, Johnson also discussed the issue in a telephone call on Monday with French President Emmanuel Macron.

Downing Street said that the Prime Minister stressed that “both the UK and the EU have a responsibility to find solutions to address the issues with the protocol”.