The European Commission will make full use of its retaliation arsenal if the British government goes through with its threats to unilaterally make changes to post-Brexit Northern Ireland trade rules, it warned in a statement Tuesday.
U.K. Foreign Secretary Liz Truss announced earlier in the day that her government would bring in legislation “in the coming weeks” that would give British ministers the power to make a host of changes to the arrangement governing trade across the Irish Sea under the so-called Northern Ireland protocol. That, Commission Vice-President Maroš Šefčovič said, “raises significant concerns.”
“Should the U.K. decide to move ahead with a bill disapplying constitutive elements of the protocol as announced today by the U.K. government, the EU will need to respond with all measures at its disposal,” he said.
Measures could include unfreezing infringement procedures against London that had previously been put on hold — or even scrapping the whole EU-U.K. post-Brexit trade deal.
It could take several weeks or months before the EU takes concrete measures in response to the threats. London is expected to bring in the legislation by June if negotiations make no substantial progress.
EU ambassadors will discuss the matter during their weekly meeting on Wednesday, an EU diplomat said.
“I don’t think there’s any appetite on the EU side to escalate this,” the diplomat said. “But there’s also not an appetite to sit idly by and just let the U.K. do what it wants.”
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