EU plans law to introduce Brexit sanctions –

On Wednesday (November 30), MEPs finalized legislation that will allow the EU to take retaliatory measures, including sanctions, against Britain if it refuses to implement the terms of the Brexit deal.

The Brexit Sanctions Mechanism Bill would give the European Commission the power to impose restrictions on trade, investment or other activities should the UK break the terms of its trade and cooperation agreement and the terms of withdrawal.

In the latest trialogue between MEPs and ministers, lawmakers agreed to narrow the criteria and reduce the number of steps the EU must take before taking action and imposing sanctions.

EU officials familiar with the matter told EURACTIV that the aim was to allow the Commission to react more quickly to breaches of Brexit agreements.

MEPs were also keen to avoid a repeat of the Commission’s short-lived decision in February 2021 to suspend the Northern Ireland Protocol due to concerns over the supply of COVID-19 vaccines by giving MEPs a right of inspection of the mechanisms for suspension and sanctions.

In the final compromise text, MEPs guaranteed Parliament “right to informationmeaning the European Commission will consult Parliament before any action against the UK following a breach of the agreement.

Politically, this regulation is a strong message showing the unity of the EU and its willingness to act should the UK break any agreement, including the Ireland/Northern Ireland Protocol. Especially if the UK government refused to participate in the proposed dispute settlement mechanismssaid Se├ín Kelly, the Irish EPP MEP who led Parliament’s negotiating team.

Of course, we would prefer that enforcement mechanisms were not necessary. But while we welcome Britain’s more constructive and positive approach to the EU under the leadership of the Prime Minister [Rishi] Sunak, we have yet to see this approach implemented in practice. The background music is much better and although I think we are moving in the right direction, the reality is that the legal situation remains the same.“, he added.

The status and implementation of the Northern Ireland Protocol, designed to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland by establishing a system of customs control of goods crossing the Irish Sea, was one of the main causes of disagreement between London and Brussels.

After negotiating and approving the protocol, Boris Johnson’s government ruled it unenforceable following strong criticism from the pro-British unionist community in Northern Ireland, which blames the control system for separating Ireland from the northern UK domestic market.

From an Irish perspective, this regulation is also essential to protect the economy of the whole of Ireland. Positive signs show the UK government is keen to undo some of the damage done to its relationship with the Irish governmentsaid mr. Kelly.

It is in everyone’s interest to make the Northern Ireland Protocol work, which is the only hard Brexit solution that the UK has chosen. The main purpose of the protocol is to prevent the return of a hard border on the island of Ireland and to preserve the peace“, he added.

The new law is expected to come into effect early next year.

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