Trade minister Liz Truss has insisted Britain has not breached the Northern Ireland protocol in the Brexit trade deal, something it has been accused of doing by the European Union which has promised to take legal action.
“These are temporary easements and it’s perfectly common practice whilst deals are being implemented to have temporary easements in place,” Truss told Sky News on Friday.
“That is not a breach of the protocol and we’re very clear about that.”
The British government extended a grace period for some checks on agricultural and food products imported by retailers to Northern Ireland until 1 October, in a move Brussels said violated the terms of Britain’s divorce deal.
The move was met with furious backlash from Brussels, with EU officials holding emergency discussions with David Frost, the Prime Minister’s Europe Adviser, on Wednesday night.
Vice president of the European Commission Maros Sefcovic told the Financial Times yesterday that Britain’s extension of a grace period for checks on goods heading to Northern Ireland had been a “very negative surprise”.
Sefcovic said the European Commission was already working on “infringement proceedings” against the UK, for what it sees as a breach of the two sides’ 2019 divorce treaty.
“We are currently preparing it and it would be really something coming to our table very soon,” he told the FT. “The most precise term I can give you is really very soon.”
Simon Coveney, Ireland’s foreign minister, warned the UK against committing to the extension, saying the EU would see Britain as an untrustworthy partner.
“To say that is disrespectful, would be an understatement,” he added.