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Northern Protocol raises legal concerns this time

The Northern Protocol has emerged as a bone of contention between UK and the European Union due to the discrepancies in the Brexit arrangements. There have been constant tussles between the two parties to reach an agreement to supervise the withdrawal agreement and the corresponding goof faith provisions. The withdrawal agreement was ratified by both the parties and came into force on 1 February 2020.   

On 15 march 2021, the European Union Commission sent a legal notice to the United Kingdom for breach of the “substantive provisions” as well as the “good faith obligation under the Withdrawal Agreement”.  This was followed by the UK’s implementation of changes in the original agreement with respect to the movement of goods and pet travel between Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Maros Sefcovic, the Vice President of European Union Commission’s Energy Union stated that the UK and the EU were bound to abide by the agreement together and any unilateral decision was definitely illegal. Thus, as a resort to ensure that the provisions were respected and the Joint Committee responsible for the same could look into the proper functioning. 

The European Union Commission has also sent a political letter to David Frost, the UK’s co-chair of the Joint Committee to roll back on the unilateral measures and violations being carried out. The UK has responded to the allegations by saying that the extensions and similar changes were normal for international treaties in the initial phases and did not require a legal action. The main concern is the grace period that the UK has increased to ensure that the supermarkets do not suffer due to the hardening of the border. This will also mean delay in checks on supermarket goods that cross the Irish Sea The EU has not taken this extension lightly and refuses to accept that as anything less than “infringement proceedings”. 

This incident has received international response too. American President Joe Biden urged the two parties to solve the matter by pragmatic solutions that respect the “hard won peace in Northern Ireland”. 

This conflict is bound to affect the economic well being of the people living near the borders. This a timely intervention or a rectification of the measures is necessary. The UK has a month to respond to the legal notice. It is important that the two organisations look beyond administrative jargons and give the greater good its due to ease the transition phase.