MEPs demand Brexit sanctions mechanism, lament UK’s ‘bitterly disappointing’ stance – EURACTIV.com

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MEPs have urged the European Commission to have clear procedures for the EU to take retaliatory action, including sanctions against the UK if it refuses to implement the terms of the Brexit deal .

At a joint meeting of Parliament’s trade, foreign affairs and constitutional affairs committees on Wednesday 31 August, MEPs debated a draft regulation aimed at upholding EU rights in the context of both of the Withdrawal Agreement and the Trade and Cooperation Agreement which now governs EU-British Trade.

“In the event of a breach of the agreed trading terms, with this Regulation, the Commission will have the power to impose restrictions on trade, investment or other activities falling within the scope of the Withdrawal Agreement and of the trade and cooperation agreement,” said Sean Kelly, the Irish EPP lawmaker who is steering the bill through parliament.

Kelly added that his proposal would ensure there was no repeat of the European Commission’s short-lived decision in February 2021 to suspend the protocol due to concerns over the supply of COVID-19 vaccines, and would give MPs control over suspension and sanction mechanisms.

Negotiations between MEPs and ministers on the settlement should be completed by the end of the year.

Meanwhile, Nathalie Loiseau, a former French EU minister and chair of the EU-UK Partnership Parliamentary Assembly, said MPs would not have accepted and ratified “if we had any doubts about its correct implementation”.

For his part, David MacAllister, the chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, remarked that “the British government has once again turned down the slope of unilateral action, [so] it is clear that the European Union needs mechanisms to protect our interests”.

Relations between London and Brussels have been very tense throughout the Brexit process, in particular over the implementation of the Northern Ireland Protocol, intended to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland by establishing a system customs controls on goods crossing the Irish Sea.

After negotiating and agreeing to the protocol, Boris Johnson’s government deemed it unworkable following heavy criticism from Northern Ireland’s pro-British unionist community who complained that customs controls separate Northern Ireland from the UK’s own internal market.

British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss, who has tabled a bill to unilaterally overturn the provisions of the protocol which will go through the British parliament when she returns from recess next week, is the clear favorite to succeed Boris Johnson as Prime Minister when the results of a ballot of Conservative Party members are announced next Monday.

Truss officials have indicated that one of his first acts as prime minister may be to suspend the protocol.

Kelly said the UK government’s lack of commitment to the Northern Ireland protocol was “bitterly disappointing”.

“The sad reality is that the UK government has not engaged in serious negotiations on the Northern Ireland Protocol since February,” Kelly said.

“Trade with the UK is important to the EU and the Irish economy in particular, so it goes without saying that I would certainly prefer that trade enforcement mechanisms were not required. However, with the bill on the Northern Ireland Protocol, the UK government has shown a willingness to break international law, so there is a need to ensure the EU can protect itself in the event of a breach,” Kelly concluded.

[Edited by Nathalie Weatherald]

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