There had been promises of friendship, but it never works out that way, and the once extended olive branch is now being used to whip the UK – the European Commission prepares to take action against the British government over what they believe is a flagrant disregard for the Brexit agreement after the UK decided to unilaterally extend the grace period, allowing businesses in Northern Ireland more time to adapt to post-Brexit rules.
European Commission Vice President Marcos Sefcovic believes the actions of the UK have breached the terms of agreement laid out in the Brexit deal and has accused the country of breaking international law.
As the bloc agrees on the need for action against Britain, political commentator Pete Durnell has made an attempt to find out what this could mean for the relationship between the EU and UK.
Sputnik: What are your thoughts on Britain's decision to unilaterally extend the grace period allowing businesses in Northern Ireland more time to adapt to post Brexit rules?
Pete Durnell: I've always viewed the Northern Ireland protocol as a gigantic fudge. I'm not absolutely convinced when it was drawn up and agreed that anyone really knew quite how it would end up working. It's undoubtedly very complex. And I think it's going to need or it would need a lot of goodwill on both sides to actually give it a chance of operating properly. I'm not sure that exists on the EU side. So to answer your question, I suspect the extension I believe it's October, that the grace period will make very little difference. And ultimately, it's going to need to be scrapped or reworked basically.
Sputnik: The EU has accused the UK of breaching both the withdrawal agreement and potentially international law. What's your opinion on these accusations?
Pete Durnell: I think we're going to see a lot of this. I actually believe that by the UK signing up to the withdrawal agreement, we effectively signed up to the level playing field that the EU always wanted. In other words, we've agreed not to be more competitive than the EU, in a lot of areas, we don't actually have to enact the EU law into UK law anymore, but in effect, we're having to abide by them going forward. So I'm not surprised, or won't be surprised when they launch formal proceedings against us. Because if we do abide by EU law at all the time going forward, then what was the point of Brexit?
Sputnik: Do you think we will see the EU launch formal legal proceedings against the UK on this matter?
Pete Durnell: Yeah, on the matter of the grace period, I think they have pretty much already decided they will be doing it. So it's not really if they are going to do that. They'll go to the European Court of Justice. And I don't think we need to guess too much what the outcome of that decision will be. Though, I'll actually be very disappointed if we don't see the EU accusing us of breaking international law and breaking the withdrawal agreement because it's a bit of a straitjacket. And if we don't do that it means largely that we're effectively being tied by the level playing field. And again, what was the point of Brexit in the first place If that's the case.
Sputnik: How damaging could this be for the relationship between the UK and EU? And were problems like this always inevitable?
Pete Durnell: I think yes, absolutely. It was always inevitable in terms of how damaging. Could the relationship be getting much worse than it is at the moment, with the arguments over vaccines? And as we're saying, the grace period and I think as I say also, there are going to be a lot of disagreements about whether we're going against the level playing field and being too competitive, etc. So I am afraid I do see a rather fractious relationship in the coming months and maybe years even.
The views and opinions expressed in the article do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.