‘UK can’t be trusted!’ Furious Ireland backs Brussels legal threat in Brexit trade row

Brexit: Steve Barclay says government will ‘defend the UK’

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Foreign minister Simon Coveney insisted No10’s unilateral move to scrap Brussels red tape for Northern Ireland is in breach of the treaty. Prime Minister Boris Johnson yesterday announced plans to extend a series of grace periods to protect supermarket supply chains. The European Commission accused Britain of breaking international law by going it alone.

And Brussels insiders have also responded furiously, insisting UK could be hauled before EU judges as a result of the infraction.

Mr Coveney said: “That is why the EU is now looking at legal options and legal action which means a much more formalised and rigid negotiation process as opposed to a process of partnership where you try to solve the problems together.” 

“If the UK cannot simply be trusted because they take unilateral action in an unexpected way without negotiation, well then the British Government leaves the EU with no option and that is not where we want to be,” he added.

Downing Street yesterday defended it as necessary to keep trade flowing freely between Great Britain and NI until October.

The move will protect supermarket supply chains to the region.

Supermarkets will now have more time to prepare for life under the divorce deal’s Northern Ireland Protocol to avoid a hard border.

A grace period exempting trade between the UK and NI from some checks expires on March 31.

Britain has proposed extending the current measures for a further six months to avoid a cliff-edge for business in the region.

MEPs have threatened to vote down the Brexit trade agreement as the row escalates.

EU Parliament Brexit negotiator Christophe Hansen insisted scrapping the bloc’s rules on Northern Ireland could have severe repercussions for the treaty.

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He said: “If this is David Frost’s idea of showing that he’s back to his old games, he should be mindful of the fact that the EU Parliament has not yet ratified the TCA yet and that the full implementation of the Withdrawal Agreement and its protocol is and remains a red line.”

MEPs have delayed their vote on the pact to give the European Council more time to translate the 1,240-page document into the bloc’s more than 20 official languages.

And Ireland’s top eurocrat has hinted the City of London could be punished as a result.

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Financial services commissioner Mairead McGuinness said the wrangling over the NI Protocol would have an impact on separate talks about granting British bankers access to EU markets.

She said: “We are on track.

“Things like that don’t help build trust.”

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