Members of the European Parliament have approved a new law that the EU Commission hopes will maintain the Northern Ireland protocol.
New legislation, first proposed in October by the European Parliament’s Foreign Affairs, Trade, and Constitutional Affairs Committees, has now been approved by the entire European Parliament. On Wednesday, MEPs voted to finalise legislation that would allow the EU Commission to sanction the UK if it fails to comply with the terms of the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement.
Seán Kelly and Christophe Hansen of the European People’s Party drafted the proposal first.
Mr Kelly said: “Politically, this Regulation is a strong statement of EU unity and readiness to take action if the UK were to breach either agreement, including the Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland. Especially if the British government refused to participate in the dispute resolution mechanisms provided for.
“Of course, we would prefer if the enforcement mechanisms were not needed. However, while we welcome the more constructive and positive approach from the UK towards the EU under Prime Minister Sunak, we have yet to see that translated into action.
“The mood music is much better, and while I think we are going in the direction, the reality is the legal situation remains the same.”
“From an Irish perspective, this Regulation is also essential to protect the all-Ireland economy,” he added, adding that there have been encouraging signs that the UK government wishes to repair some of the damage done to its relations with the Irish government.
Negotiations between UK and EU officials resumed last month, but the Northern Ireland Protocol remains a sticking point.
On Thursday, Ursula von der Leyen stated that she is “very confident” that a solution to the Protocol will be found if the UK Government has the political will.