European Commission Vice President Maros Zivkovic warned in the Daily Telegraph on Tuesday that the EU would respond “quickly, firmly and decisively” if the UK unilaterally extended the grace period in the Northern Ireland Protocol that expires at the end of June.

“The Protocol is the best solution to the unique situation of the island of Ireland after Brexit – and in particular the challenges posed by the type of Brexit that the current UK government has chosen. The Protocol is the only solution we have found that protects the Good Friday Agreement in all its parts” . – The Vice-President of the European Commission wrote in the text published by the Daily Telegraph.

He stressed that in order to realize the benefits of the protocol, tangible progress must be made in its implementation, but the EU cannot act alone, but it must be a joint effort by Brussels and London. He dismissed the UK government’s allegations that the EU was not flexible on the protocol and accused the UK of having “numerous and significant loopholes in the implementation of the protocol, despite it coming into force more than 17 months ago”.

“If the UK continues to take unilateral measures in the coming weeks, the EU will not hesitate to respond quickly, firmly and resolutely to ensure that the UK respects its obligations under international law,” Sevchovic warned.

The protocol is part of the Brexit agreement and stipulates the controls to be implemented on goods shipped from the United Kingdom (England, Scotland and Wales) to Northern Ireland to avoid controls on the island of Ireland. The result is a de facto trade border within the UK.

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Initially, London and Brussels agreed to a three-month grace period, but in March the British government responded to the fact that importers were not yet ready for the new rules, unilaterally pushing back the deadline for introducing controls. In mid-May, British media reported that London was planning to push this deadline further, so that full checks on certain groups of goods would not come into effect until next year.

As he writes on the occasion of Szefczovicz’s “Daily Telegraph”, the British government is considering – as a last resort – another unilateral extension of the allowable period for refrigerated meat, including sausages and lunch meat. During the grace period, refrigerated meat produced in the rest of the UK can now be shipped to Northern Ireland. However, this period will expire on June 30, which means that sausages and luncheon meat produced, for example, in England will not be allowed to be sold in this county.

According to government sources quoted by the newspaper, the British government will “in no way accept” the situation in which British sausages can no longer be shipped to Northern Ireland, although it is treating the unilateral measure as a last resort. The sources also warned that the thorny issue of banning the import of refrigerated meat could fuel tensions at the start of the Northern Ireland loyalists’ rally season.

From London Bartłomiej Niedziński (PAP)

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