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EU launches infringement procedures against Britain over N. Ireland Protocol

The Northern Ireland Protocol, part of the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement, is meant to avoid a hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland

Brussels, Belgium | Xinhua | The European Union (EU) on Friday launched four new infringement procedures against Britain for not implementing the Northern Ireland Protocol.

“Despite repeated calls by the European Parliament, the 27 EU Member States and the European Commission to implement the Protocol, the British government has failed to do so,” said the European commission in a statement.

The first infringement procedure is about Britain’s non-compliance with applicable customs requirements, which increases risks of smuggling via Northern Ireland.

The second one is about Britain’s failure to notify the transposition of the EU legislation laying down general EU rules of excise duty, which should have been done by Dec. 31, 2021. This poses a fiscal risk to the EU “in relation to movements of goods subject to excise duties to/from Northern Ireland,” said the European Commission.

The third procedure covers Britain’s failure to notify the transposition of EU rules on excise duties on alcohol and alcoholic beverages, which should also have been done by Dec. 31, 2021.

The last one concerns Britain’s failure to implement EU rules on value-added tax (VAT) for e-commerce.

The first step of the infringement procedure is to send letters, which was done on Friday, asking the British authorities to take “swift remedial actions to restore compliance with the terms of the protocol.”

The Northern Ireland Protocol, part of the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement, is meant to avoid a hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland. As such, the border has been moved down to the Irish Sea.

It means that under the protocol, Northern Ireland is part of the British customs territory but is subject to the EU’s customs code, value-added tax (VAT) rules and single market rules for goods.

The EU side argues that they have been withholding infringement procedures “in a spirit of constructive cooperation” for over a year. However, Britain introduced a bill last week that intends to change parts of the protocol, a move that the EU says has damaged mutual trust.

According to the British government, however, the bill would allow it to address “the practical problems the Protocol has created in Northern Ireland” in four areas: burdensome customs processes, inflexible regulation, tax and spend discrepancies, and democratic governance issues.

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