The EU Commission launched legal proceedings against the UK last week and gave the Government two months to comply with the Brexit Northern Ireland Protocol. The bloc’s legal proceedings are intended to allow the Commission to force member states to comply with EU treaties.
But according to lawyer Clive Thorne, given Britain no longer belongs to the EU, the UK Government could simply ignore the legal threats.
The lawyer from McCarthy Denning, partner and Vice Chairman of Lawyers for Britain told Express.co.uk EU Commissioner Maros Sefcovic’s claim the UK is in breach of international law is “just wrong”.
Asked whether the EU has any more “legal weapons” up its sleeves it could unleash on the UK, he said: “No, they don’t.
“What might be possible and I’m not saying this would happen, but it’s conceivable that the British Government and the European Union will say well, look, let’s put all this to arbitration.
“Which is actually what is intended by the amendments of the proposed bill.
“So that’s a possibility.
“But this isn’t a matter for classic international law.
“Because the European Union isn’t a state.
“The jurisdiction of what is known as the International Court of The Hague is jurisdiction which is limited to nation states.”
Maros Sefcovic said the European Union was not “here for political point-scoring” after the bloc launched fresh legal action against the UK in retaliation over the Prime Minister’s just laid Northern Ireland Protocol Bill, which will effectively rip up key parts of the deal signed by Mr Johnson and the EU in 2019.
Mr Sefcovic said Boris Johnson’s plans to unilaterally scrap parts of Northern Ireland’s Brexit deal are “politically driven” and “very damaging” to EU-UK relations.
He told Beth Rigby on Sky News: “I cannot resist the impression that the tabling of the Bill is politically driven, but it’s not our role to comment on internal politics in the UK and therefore our doors for the negotiations will always be open.
“We are here for the results, not political point-scoring… We are in a fixing business, but I am afraid to say what was tabled on Monday is very much nixing.
“It is very much ripping up the protocol and I don’t think that is good for anyone.”
In the deal, both sides agreed to put checks on goods, plant and animal products crossing from Great Britain to Northern Ireland in order to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland.
The UK has insisted that its unilateral approach is the only option left to resolve the issues “baked in” to the protocol if the EU maintains its refusal to fundamentally rewrite the terms of the deal.
The European Commission vice-president said Brexit difficulties were bleeding into other areas of co-operation.
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While he praised “remarkable” EU-UK cooperation on Ukraine and other global challenges, he said it was a “pity that we have to spend so much time” discussing Brexit issues “when we need to build and consolidate this western unity”.
Mr Sefcovic added: “What is indeed very damaging for our relationship is this constant breaching of the international law, and that’s something that we’ve been not used to from the UK.”
The dispute could ultimately lead to a trade war, with tariffs or even the suspension of the entire Brexit deal between the UK and the European Union.
Mr Sefcovic declined to rule out a trade war, saying: “We have to keep all options on the table.”
But he emphasised the EU’s preference to find a negotiated resolution to the problems caused by the protocol, lamenting the “radio silence from London since February”.
He added: “We would very much appreciate… more of a political will to work on these issues jointly.”
Asked if the issue can be resolved, he said he would “hope for the best, be prepared for the worst”.