The European Union has launched fresh legal action against the UK in retaliation over Boris Johnson’s plans to unilaterally scrap parts of Northern Ireland’s Brexit deal. European Commission vice-president Maros Sefcovic said the UK’s move had “no legal or political justification”. But Sky News’ political editor Beth Rigby erupted at the vice-president of the European Commission Maros Sefcovic over the “empty threat”.
Speaking to Beth Rigby Interview, Mr Sefcovic said: “We’ve been building our new post-Brexit relationship on a very clear foundation.
“The first one was the agreement part on the protocol of Ireland and Northern Ireland.
“If you pull the rack from under this construction then of course we have a fundamental issue with the whole architecture and therefore we cannot exclude anything.”
Ms Rigby added: “So you can’t exclude a trade war?
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“If you’re Boris Johnson in London and listening to this you’re thinking, ‘a trade war could come in three years’ time’ which is after the next general election.
“Politically its meaningless in the way that it’s an empty threat at this point in negotiations.”
Mr Sefcovic continued: “We are not in the business of threats.
“From the first moment we began negotiating the withdrawal agreement, we were the only party bringing constructive ideas to the table.
“We did it in the course of the last year despite lots of unilateral actions taken by the UK and we are doing it now.”
As well as new legal action for alleged failures to implement the Northern Ireland Protocol as it stands, Mr Sefcovic confirmed that existing infringement proceedings which had been paused while UK-EU talks took place would now be resumed.
And he indicated further measures could follow if the UK pressed ahead with the Northern Ireland Protocol Bill, which will effectively rip up key parts of the deal signed by Mr Johnson and the EU in 2019.
At a press conference in Brussels, Mr Sefcovic said the UK Government had set out to “unilaterally break international law”.
The plan would mean “breaking an agreement that protects peace and stability in Northern Ireland, an agreement reached together only three years ago”.
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Mr Sefcovic said: “Let there be no doubt: there is no legal nor political justification whatsoever for unilaterally changing an international agreement.
“Opening the door to unilaterally changing an international agreement is a breach of international law as well.
“So let’s call a spade a spade: this is illegal.”
The dispute could ultimately lead to a trade war, with tariffs or even the suspension of the entire Brexit deal between the UK and European Union.