Boris Johnson must respect “the rule of law” by fully implementing post-Brexit deals for Northern Ireland, EU leaders said ahead of the G7 summit in Cornwall.
Charles Michel, President of the European Council, said the Prime Minister’s behavior is of growing concern to EU member states. “It is essential to implement what we have decided – it is a matter of the rule of law,” he said.
The Prime Minister will hold a trilateral meeting with Michel and the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, in Cornwall.
The framing of the dispute between the United Kingdom and the EU as that of respect for the international legal order will resonate with the American President, Joe Biden, who arrived in Cornwall on Thursday. Biden is expected to call on both sides to stick to the Good Friday deal.
Under the withdrawal agreement signed by Johnson, Northern Ireland effectively remains in the single market and the EU customs code is enforced in the Irish Sea to avoid a hard border on the island from Ireland. But Brussels complained that these provisions were not respected.
The EU has previously accused the Johnson government of breaking international law by unilaterally extending grace periods for a series of border checks and controls on goods entering Northern Ireland from Britain.
In a meeting Wednesday between David Frost, Britain’s Brexit Minister, and EU officials, they failed to reach agreement on a range of other disputes and impending critical points.
The construction of border checkpoints in Northern Ireland ports has been suspended, sufficient staff have not been recruited to carry out checks and controls and cargo traceability systems have not been put in place , complain EU officials.
The EU believes that the UK’s attitude towards ending a grace period on a ban on exports from Britain to Northern Ireland of chilled meats such as sausages and the hash will represent a “crossroads” moment.
A further unilateral extension of the grace period would most likely lead the EU to open a case under the Withdrawal Agreement dispute settlement procedure. This could lead to the application of tariffs on British goods entering the EU or the suspension of parts of the trade agreement.
The EU has not ruled out a mutually agreed extension of the grace period, but the UK lacks confidence to help find a permanent solution.
The two sides are also arguing over the best way to avoid the application of the full range of sanitary and phytosanitary controls from 1 October on imports from Great Britain of meat, fish, eggs and products. dairy products, including long export health certificates (ESCs), which must be completed by a veterinarian or other qualified person.
In a joint press conference with Michel ahead of the meetings with Johnson in Cornwall, Von der Leyen said the UK could not avoid all the consequences of Brexit.
She said: “We agreed with the UK that the protocol was the only solution, ensuring no hard border for Northern Ireland [with the Republic of Ireland], we have been really debating this for years and we have found the one and only solution.
“Now we have a treaty on it, the Withdrawal Agreement, it was signed by both parties – Pacta sunt servanda [agreements must be kept]. It is important that we now implement the protocol. We have been flexible, we are going to be flexible, but the protocol and the Withdrawal Agreement must be implemented, fully.
“The advantage of an agreement, of a signed treaty, is that both parties have also signed a dispute settlement mechanism and corrective measures that can be taken. So there are no unilateral actions, but there is an agreed dispute settlement mechanism with different stages. “
However, Von der Leyen stressed that she wanted the protocol to work for “everyone” and added that the committee would be flexible in the coming weeks as solutions were sought.