On 15 June, the European Commission began three infringement proceedings following the UK’s decision to draft law that would override significant parts of the Protocol on Ireland and Northern Ireland.
The Northern Ireland Protocol is an integral part of the Withdrawal Agreement concluded between the European Union and the United Kingdom to establish the terms of the UK’s orderly withdrawal from the EU. It avoids a hard border on the island of Ireland, protects the 1998 Good Friday (Belfast) Agreement, and ensures the integrity of the EU’s Single Market.
According to the UK, the decision to make unilateral changes to the Protocol is prompted by the alleged political internal instability caused by the Protocol, since the Ulster Unionist Party - the Unionist party of Northern Ireland - is refusing to join a devolved government until their concerns over the Protocol are addressed.
From its perspective, the EU has already acknowledged the practical complications in the implementation of the Protocol. Nevertheless, it always remained committed to the possibility of finding solutions within the agreed framework.
The aim of these infringement proceedings is to restore compliance with the Protocol in a number of strategic provisions that have not been fully respected by the UK.
The first infringement proceeding had already been launched by the European Commission in March 2021 and was temporarily suspended. It has now been taken to the second stage with the issuing of a Reasoned Opinion.
The other two infringement procedures initiated against the UK address the UK’s failure to carry out its obligations under the EU's sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) rules and to provide the EU with certain trade statistics data in respect of Northern Ireland, as required under the Protocol.
In addition to the three infringement procedures, the general loss of trust in the UK’s compliance with bilateral and multilateral agreements as well as the legal uncertainty for companies and citizens in the UK are among the direct impacts of the current dispute.