The European Commission will use its full arsenal of retaliation if the British government follows through on its threats to unilaterally change post-Brexit trade rules in Northern Ireland, it warned in a statement on Tuesday.
UK Foreign Secretary Liz Truss announced earlier today that her government would introduce legislation “in the coming weeks” which would give UK ministers the power to make a host of changes to the arrangement governing the trade across the Irish Sea under the so-called Northern Ireland Protocol. This, said Commission Vice-President Maroš Šefčovič, “raises serious concerns”.
“If the UK decides to move forward with a bill removing the building blocks of the protocol, as announced today by the UK government, the EU will have to respond with all measures at its disposal,” did he declare.
Measures could include unfreezing infringement proceedings against London which had previously been suspended – or even scrapping the entire post-Brexit EU-UK trade deal.
It could take several weeks or months before the EU takes concrete action in response to the threats. London is expected to present the legislation by June if negotiations do not make substantial progress.
EU ambassadors will discuss the issue at their weekly meeting on Wednesday, an EU diplomat said.
“I don’t think the EU wants to step this up,” the diplomat said. “But there is also no desire to sit idly by and let the UK do what it wants.”
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