The UK and EU have clashed over the Northern Ireland protocol once more as post-Brexit relations continue to sour. Brussels has launched infringement proceedings against the UK after the Government unilaterally decided to extend the grace period on checks to allow Northern Irish businesses more time to adjust to post-Brexit import rules. This angered the EU as it means delaying the implementation of the Northern Ireland protocol, formed in the Brexit withdrawal agreement. Ireland’s foreign minister Simon Coveney said this week that the EU is willing to show some flexibility to try and resolve the issue.
He said: “I think certainly the EU side wants to get a process under way again, so that both sides are talking to each other.”
There is currently a risk that the case could end up in The Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU), but RTE’s Europe Editor Tony Connelly believes this legal row could fade as it has done previously.
On the Brexit Republic podcast, he said the EU would ask the UK for a “roadmap” towards compliance with the Northern Ireland protocol.
He continued: “The UK would have to produce this roadmap, on that basis they are clear on how they intend to implement that protocol.
“We could see an informal meeting between David Frost and Maros Sefcovic (Vice President of the European Commission) to give the thing a bit of a nudge.
“The legal action will of course continue, but legal action from the EU goes on its merry way and if the UK comes back into compliance then the legal action quietly withers on the vine.”
As things stand, the legal action is still ongoing, and could end up in the courts should the Government continue to resist Brussels’ infringement proceedings.
Infringement proceedings involve the European Commission sending a letter of formal notice to the UK regarding the alleged breach of the withdrawal agreement and sets out a time frame for a response.
If Brussels deems the reply to be unsatisfactory, CJEU may become involved in the case.
If the CJEU rules against the UK, it can produce a court order demanding the Government not to override the withdrawal agreement.
The EU can request that the UK is fined if the Government refuses to comply.
READ MORE: Brexit fury: EU fined UK £2.4billion in fraud row
Mr Sefcovic has already spoken to Lord Frost in recent days, the Guardian reported, and there are hopes that a meeting of the specialised committee on Northern Ireland will follow.
Reports also suggest that the roadmap reportedly demanded by the EU has not been presented by the UK.
Last week Mr Sefcovic accused Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab of not understanding the protocol, and warned figures in the US share the same view.
He said: “This is what I feel when I talk to my international partners; that was what I felt when I talked to the Friends of Ireland on the [Capitol] Hill in the US.
“The statements, like I saw yesterday from the Foreign Secretary, Raab, who, if I remember correctly was also for a couple of months in charge of the Brexit negotiations, that it’s the EU that wants to build the border between GB and Northern Ireland, and that it’s unacceptable.
Joe Biden’s fury with EU as UK poised to benefit [INSIGHT]
Von Der Leyen ‘has caused serious crisis’ as EU unity crumbles [ANALYSIS]
Brexit: UK was ordered to pay £100m to Spanish fishermen [INSIGHT]
“That raises a lot of questions because this is, if I put it very diplomatically, a total misunderstanding of the deal we have signed.”
Mr Raab said Brussels was trying to build a “barrier” between Northern Ireland and Great Britain.
The UK Government has demanded the EU “take a more pragmatic approach and keep in mind that the protocol depends on cross-community consent and confidence if it is to work”.