The European Commission has launched four new infringement procedures against the UK, alleging that it is not complying with “significant parts” of the Northern Ireland Protocol.
The EU had already launched separate infringement procedures in June over the protocol, which is aimed at avoiding a hard border on the island of Ireland.
“Despite repeated calls by the European Parliament, the 27 EU member states, and the European Commission to implement the protocol, the UK government has failed to do so,” the commission said in a statement.
Lack of ‘meaningful discussion’
The EU body said that it had put off some actions for more than a year to create space to seek joint solutions.
“The UK's unwillingness to engage in meaningful discussion since last February, and the continued passage of the Northern Ireland Protocol Bill through the UK parliament go directly against this spirit,” it stated.
The measures announced today (22 July) aim to bring about compliance with the protocol in four key areas:
- Failing to comply with the applicable customs requirements, supervision requirements and risk controls on the movement of goods from Northern Ireland to Great Britain,
- Failing to notify the transposition of EU legislation laying down general EU rules on excise duties, which will become applicable from 13 February 2023,
- Failing to notify the transposition of EU rules on excise duties on alcohol and alcoholic beverages, which facilitate access for small and artisan producers to lower excise-duty rates, among other provisions,
- Failing to implement EU rules on VAT for e-commerce, namely the Import One-Stop Shop (IOSS). This is a special scheme that businesses can use since 1 July 2021 to comply with their VAT obligations on distance sales of imported goods.
Failure to collect data
The commission said that the failure to comply with customs and supervision rules increased the risk of smuggling from the North, adding that the UK’s failure to collect export-declaration data on goods moved from the North to Great Britain made supervision by EU officials impossible.
The EU body said that non-implementation of the rules on excise duties would lead to a risk of lost revenue for the EU.
Today's action marks the beginning of formal infringement procedures, as set out in article 12(4) of the protocol. The commission has given the UK two months to reply to its complaints, after which it “stands ready to take further measures”.
These could include taking Britain to the Court of Justice of the European Union.