Brussels (Brussels Morning) European Commission Vice President Maroš Šefčović, the bloc’s chief Brexit negotiator, said on Tuesday that the EU is prepared to act “firmly and resolutely” if London fails to adhere to its commitments as enshrined in the Brexit treaty signed between the UK and the EU late last year.
Šefčovič’s comments were published in the Daily Telegraph, just ahead of the meeting with his UK counterpart David Frost, where the two are expected to hold further talks on implementation of the divorce agreement between London and Brussels.
Tensions between the UK and the EU grew earlier this year when London decided to unilaterally extend a grace period for implementing customs checks on certain goods delivered from mainland Britain to Northern Ireland, claiming the move was necessary to prevent shortages in supermarkets in the province.
Brussels strongly opposed the unilateral decision, claiming it represented a breach of the Brexit treaty’s Northern Ireland Protocol, and initiated an infringement procedure against Britain at the European Court of Justice.
Šefčovič reiterated his opposition to the move and told the Telegraph that negotiators should strive to achieve “mutually agreed compliance paths”, instead of acting unilaterally. “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 declared.
The Northern Ireland Protocol remains a significant political problem for London, as it effectively cuts off the province from UK customs rules and keeps it within the EU single market, necessitating customs checks in the Irish Sea. Fearing it could lead to Irish reunification, pro-British unionists in the province are loudly opposing the Protocol, with a looming threat that sectarian conflicts will re-emerge on the island.