Merkel and Macron pressure EU to 'develop legal response' to UK – EU court battle threat

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According to senior officials speaking to RTE News, the EU Commissioner Maros Sefcovic has been reassuring EU member states that Brussels will consider three different escalating measures against the UK should Boris Johnson decide to unilaterally postpone the implementation of the Brexit Northern Ireland Protocol.

As reported by RTE Europe editor Tony Connelly, the EU is looking at taking “measured” responses to any unilateral decision Boris Johnson’s Government will be taking on the Protocol.

But Germany and France are putting pressure on the Commission to “develop a range of precise legal responses” against the UK.

Mr Connelly reported that Mr Sefcovic has told member states the legal route could see the UK before the European Court of Justice as soon as September.

The Commission is also reportedly looking at two other ways to force the UK to comply with the Withdrawal Agreement.

On one hand, they would be looking at arbitration proceedings, whilst the last resort will be triggering retaliatory measures through the Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA).

A source told Mr Connelly: “The British press seem to be developing the narrative that if they unilaterally extend the grace period at the end of the month then the EU will automatically react.

“The EU doesn’t want to get sucked into the stupid sausage war type narrative, where we would be seen to be coming heavy because of things like chilled meat, sausages etc.”

The EU has threatened to launch a trade war against Britain if it fails to implement checks on goods entering Northern Ireland under the terms of the Brexit “divorce” settlement which Mr Johnson signed.

READ MORE: ‘Excessively burdensome!’ Boris Johnson bemoans EU’s approach to trade

The prospect of a “sausage war” trade dispute came after Brexit minister Lord Frost refused to rule out the possibility the UK could unilaterally delay imposing checks on British-made chilled meats which are due to come into force at the end of the month.

The Protocol effectively keeps Northern Ireland in the European single market and customs union in order to avoid a hard border with Ireland, effectively creating a trade barrier in the Irish Sea for goods crossing from Great Britain.

Mr Johnson, who will hold talks with EU leaders over the course of the G7 summit, told the BBC: “You will understand that there are ways of enforcing the Protocol, ways of making it work, that may be excessively burdensome.

“I just give you one statistic: 20 percent of the checks conducted across the whole of the perimeter of the EU are now done in Northern Ireland, three times as many as happen in Rotterdam.”

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The new post-Brexit arrangements came into effect on January 1 and the dispute is still simmering, but Mr Johnson insisted “I think we can sort it out”.

The Brexit dispute has inflamed tensions for unionists in Northern Ireland, who dislike barriers with Great Britain.

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said Mr Johnson was eager to raise the Protocol with the US President so he could be “very clear on our position” but said the pair “didn’t linger on” the issue.

Mr Raab told Sky News the Prime Minister was able to explain that “we want a flexible, pragmatic approach”.

“But for that to happen the EU must be less purist, more pragmatic and more flexible in the implementation of it. The ball is very much in the EU’s court in relation to that,” the Foreign Secretary added.

“The bottom line for us is that the threat, the risk, to the Good Friday Agreement comes from the approach the EU has taken – a particularly purist approach.”

At a press conference ahead of the G7 summit, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen insisted the Protocol is the “only solution” to prevent a hard border with the Republic and must be implemented in full.

She said: “We have shown flexibility, we will show flexibility, but the Protocol and the (Brexit) Withdrawal Agreement have to be implemented completely.”

French President Emmanuel Macron also warned the Brexit deal could not be renegotiated.

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