EU accused of ‘blockading’ NI – Brussels sparks fury with legal threat in Brexit deal row

Brexit: Maitlis grills Barclay on grace period extension

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Brussels reacted with fury after the UK Government announced yesterday it had made a unilateral decision to continue the Irish Sea border grace periods until October. Brexit minister Lord David Frost added the UK’s intervention should allow time for constructive discussions with counterparts in Brussels. But vice-president Maros Sefcovic claimed the UK would be breaching international law for a second time, before the bloc then threatened legal action.

Former Brexit Party MEP Ben Habib warned the EU that the legal threat showed there was “antipathy” towards Northern Ireland and the UK.

He wrote on Twitter: “The EU is threatening the UK with legal action over David Frost ignoring the end of grace periods.

“What more evidence do we need of their antipathy to Northern Ireland and the UK?

“The EU is blockading Northern Ireland. There is no fixing the Protocol.”

He then added a hashtag saying: “Ditch the Northern Ireland Protocol”.

The first of the regulation schemes on goods from the rest of the UK transiting to Northern Ireland was originally due to expire at the end of this month.

Supermarkets would have had to produce export health certificates for all shipments of animal products since Northern Ireland is part of the EU’s single market.

Ireland’s foreign affairs minister Simon Coveney described the UK’s latest Brexit actions as “very frustrating” and said the EU is negotiating with a partner it “simply cannot trust”.

He told RTE Radio 1: “This is not the first time this has happened that they are negotiating with a partner that they simply cannot trust.”

“That is why the EU is now looking at legal options and legal actions which effectively means a much more formalised and rigid negotiation process as opposed to a process of partnership where you try to solve problems together, so this is really unwelcome.”

Taoiseach Micheal Martin also expressed “disappointment” over the UK’s plan.

He said in a statement: “I am disappointed that the British Government has today announced unilateral action relating to the Protocol.

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“Issues relating to the Protocol should be resolved by the UK and EU working together, through the Joint Committee.

“We have worked continuously in support of efforts to find sensible means of implementing the Protocol that respond to challenges identified.

“We will continue to do so, but unilateral action undermines the trust necessary to reach agreement.

“I call on the British Government to engage urgently with the European Commission, and to work towards agreed outcomes.”

The Northern Ireland Protocol was brought in to help stop a hard border on the island of Ireland by allowing Northern Ireland to keep following EU trade rules.

But it has caused disruption to some goods travelling from the rest of the UK after suppliers encountered extra red tape, as both sides adjust to post-Brexit life.

Businesses in Northern Ireland have been pushing for an extension to the grace periods to avoid being faced with extra bureaucracy linked to the protocol.

A UK Government spokesperson said: “Lord Frost explained that the measures announced today, following official-level notification to the Commission earlier this week, were temporary technical steps, which largely continued measures already in place, to provide more time for businesses such as supermarkets and parcel operators to adapt to and implement the new requirements in the Protocol.”

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