Northern Ireland has been hit by social unrest of late, with loyalists showing their anger over the outcome of the Brexit agreement that introduced checks on goods arriving on the island from Great Britain. At the start of March, the UK government moved to unilaterally extend the grace period for certain requirements, but the EU isn’t happy.
The United Kingdom’s key Brexit negotiator David Frost said that London needs more time to respond to the European Union’s legal action against the UK, after the bloc accused the British government of “breaching” the Northern Ireland Protocol, RTÉ News reports.
Frost has apparently stipulated the extension request in two letters, saying that the decision was “in line with precedent that typically allows two months to respond to proceedings of this kind.”
The UK government believes that it acted lawfully after unilaterally extending the grace period on 3 March, effectively delaying the Northern Ireland protocol’s full implementation in relation to EU food safety requirements. The checks on certain products coming to the island from Great Britain were due to come into effect on 1 April, but the UK said back then it had extended the grace period until October.
London explained that the move was necessary to avoid food shortages resulting from the full implementation of checks. Many feared that when the grace period ended there would be disruptions in food supplies similar to those Northern Ireland witnessed in January, shortly after the UK transition period ended.
But the European Commission was outraged, with its Vice President Maros Sefcovic slamming the UK’s decision as “a violation” of the Northern Ireland protocol.