The European Commission launched new legal action against Britain on Wednesday, accusing London of threatening peace in Northern Ireland by trying to overhaul the post-Brexit trade deal.
“The UK government tabled legislation confirming its intention to unilaterally break international law,” EU commission vice-president Maros Sefcovic said.
“More precisely to break an agreement that protects peace and stability in Northern Ireland,” he said.
“Let there be no doubt. There is no legal nor political justification whatsoever for unilaterally changing an international agreement.
“Opening the door to unilaterally changing an international agreement is a breach of international law, as well. So let’s call a spade a spade. This is illegal.”
On Monday, the British government introduced legislation to rip up post-Brexit trading rules for Northern Ireland, in an attempt to override the EU withdrawal treaty that it had signed.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government insists it is not breaking international law, citing a “necessity” to act to restore Northern Ireland’s power-sharing institutions.
But Brussels rejects this argument, and Sefcovic said that legal action would be taken, with two new cases joining those the commission had suspended.
“The UK Government’s decision has left us with no choice but to act first,” Sefcovic said.
“We are proceeding a step further with an infringement process we launched in March 2021 regarding for instance the movement of agrifood. If the UK doesn’t reply within two months, we may take them to the Court of Justice,” he warned.
“Second, we are launching two new infringements against the UK,” he said, announcing cases that could see the British government brought before the European Court of Justice.
“One for failing to carry out the necessary controls at the border control posts in Northern Ireland by ensuring adequate staffing and infrastructure.
“And one for failing to provide the EU with essential trade statistics data to enable the EU to protect its single market.”