EU slaps UK with four new Brexit infringements

The EU has slapped four new infringement procedures on the UK for failing to apply customs, excise and VAT rules properly in Northern Ireland.

he rules apply under a protocol to the UK’s 2019 EU exit deal, which London is trying to suspend via legislation.

UK foreign secretary Liz Truss, who authored the draft law, is currently the frontrunner to take over from prime minister Boris Johnson in the Tory leadership race.

The draft prompted the EU last month to accuse the UK of breaching international law and issue a first set of infringements.

The European Commission said on Friday that failure to apply customs rules “significantly increases the risk of smuggling via Northern Ireland”.

In a statement, the Commission said it had held off on launching legal proceedings for over a year to “create space to look for joint solutions with the UK”.

But it said the UK’s “unwillingness to engage in meaningful discussion since last February” and the passage of the bill to suspend the Northern Ireland protocol “go directly against this spirit”.

“There should be no UK bill going through parliament,” European Commission spokesman Eric Mamer said on Friday.

“We have been extremely patient. We have engaged with the United Kingdom over a very long period of time in order to find solutions to the practical difficulties that could exist in the implementation of the protocol.

“We have bent over backwards in terms of making proposals to solve these issues.

“We are still in a situation where, in fact, the UK is not implementing its part of the deal.

“If we thought that the prospects were great of sitting together on Monday and coming to a solution, we would not be launching the infringements.”

Under the protocol, Northern Ireland is treated as part of the EU’s single market for goods, and is required to apply EU trade, company, energy, tax and other laws.

The EU has accused the UK of not collecting export data on goods moving from Northern Ireland to mainland Britain and of failing to provide that data to the EU.

It says the UK has also failed to bring in new EU rules on excise duties, particularly on alcohol, with the bloc fearing it will lose revenues and hand the UK an unfair competitive advantage.

And it says simplified VAT rules for sales of goods under €150 are not being applied in Nothern Ireland, which the EU says poses a “fiscal risk” to the bloc.

Friday’s move brings the number of open infringements against the UK to seven.

London has two months to respond to the four new infringements or face a possible court case and fines.

In June the Commission revived an infringement on food export certification, and added two new infringements for UK failures to carry out veterinary inspection and collect certain trade data in Northern Ireland.

The new infringements come just a day after the UK Treasury revealed that the UK’s EU exit bill had ballooned by €10bn to €50.2bn.

The increase is mainly due to inflation on pension costs and the fact that protracted Brexit negotiations saw the UK remain an EU member for a year longer than planned.

Initial estimates in 2017 put the UK’s liabilities at €40-45bn.

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