The UK has told the EU it will continue with its pause on border checks on goods between Great Britain and Northern Ireland, despite the bloc’s legal action against the government, according to reports.
The European Commission launched its infringement procedures back in June and July, accusing the UK of failing to comply with the Northern Ireland Protocol – agreed by both sides during Brexit negotiations to avoid the introduction of a hard border on the island of Ireland, instead creating a border in the Irish Sea.
The Commission said the UK was not abiding by customs and excise requirements and not imposing EU rules on VAT for e-commerce, as well as failing to collect relevant export declaration data on goods moving from Northern Ireland to the rest of the UK.
And it said failing to do so was increasing the risk of smuggling via Northern Ireland.
But, despite initially signing up to the protocol, the UK argues it is causing unnecessary barriers for business and risks the peace and stability of the Good Friday agreement.
The government had until today to respond to the legal action, and ministers are now understood to have told Brussels that they will continue with the grace periods on checks they currently have in place – meaning it is not forcing retailers and exporters to adhere to all the checks agreed in the protocol.
New Prime Minister Liz Truss has also vowed to push on with the Northern Ireland Protocol Bill in the Commons, which is aimed at ripping up parts of the agreement – including removing checks on goods and animal products going from Great Britain to Northern Ireland – despite the anger it has prompted from the EU.
Both sides have said they want to get around the negotiating table to iron out the issues around the protocol.
But while the UK wants to scrap some of it, the EU insists it is the best solution to prevent a hard border between Northern Ireland and Ireland, and both have accused the other of failing to engage constructively in talks.
Neither side would give more detail on the exchanges over the legal action nor publish the documents.
But Commission spokesman Daniel Ferrie told reporters in Brussels: “I can confirm we have received a reply from the UK. We will now analyse the reply before deciding on the next steps.”