Warning to UK that EU will not hesitate to act if Brexit deal is breached

Support us and go ad-free

The European Union’s top official warned that the Brexit trade deal has “real teeth” and Brussels will not hesitate to take action if Boris Johnson breaches its terms.

European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen said she hoped the EU would not have to use the measures contained within the agreement.

But she noted the concerns in the EU that the UK had not yet fully complied with the terms of the earlier Brexit divorce deal and stressed that “vigilance” would be required in future.

Belgium EU Brexit
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen at the European Parliament in Brussels (Olivier Hoslet/AP)

Von der Leyen was addressing the European Parliament as MEPs prepared to vote on the Trade and Cooperation Agreement reached with  Johnson on Christmas Eve, which governs the way the UK and EU deal with each other.

The deal has been applied provisionally since January 1 but requires the approval of MEPs – who are not expected to oppose it – before it can be ratified.

Read on...

Support us and go ad-free

Von der Leyen said: “We know it will not always be easy and there is a lot of vigilance, diligence and hard work ahead.

“But, while today’s vote is obviously an end, it is also the beginning of a new chapter.

“The choice is now whether today’s vote will be the high-water mark of the EU-UK relations for the next decades, or whether we see this as the foundation of a strong and close partnership based on our shared values and interests.

“Only history will tell what road is taken – although I hope for the latter.”

Relations between the UK and EU have been strained over the application of the Northern Ireland Protocol, which governs the post-Brexit arrangements aimed at preventing a hard border with Ireland and was part of the divorce deal signed in January 2020.

Much of the disruption and controversy created by the protocol relates to the fact that Great Britain has left the Single Market for goods, while Northern Ireland remains in the EU regulatory zone.

That necessitates a significant number of documentary checks and physical inspections on agri-food goods arriving into Northern Ireland from Great Britain.

The UK has unilaterally extended grace periods covering areas of the economy including supermarket supplies and parcel deliveries to the north of Ireland from Great Britain, meaning post-Brexit checks are not yet fully applied – which has triggered a legal dispute with Brussels.

Von der Leyen said there was a need for “joint solutions” as “unilateral decisions will get us nowhere”.

She said there had been “some progress” in talks between commission vice-president Maros Sefcovic and the UK’s Brexit Minister Lord Frost.

“In recent days and weeks, we have seen a new, constructive dynamic and we will continue to work closely with the UK to find constructive solutions that respect what was agreed,” she told MEPs

“The next step is to mutually agree on compliance paths, with concrete deadlines and milestones.”

She added: “We need solutions, not soundbites, if we are to make the protocol work for the benefit of everyone in Northern Ireland.”

Belgium EU Brexit
Michel Barnier said the EU needed to understand the ‘social anger’ that led to the Brexit vote (Olivier Hoslet/AP)

Michel Barnier, who led the EU’s negotiations with the UK, said Brexit was a sign of political failure for the bloc.

“This is a divorce. It’s a warning, Brexit, and it’s a failure – a failure of the European Union,” he said.

“And we have to learn lessons from it as politicians here in the European Parliament, in council, in the Commission, in all of the capitals.

“Why did 52% of the British vote against Europe? There are reasons for that – social anger and tension which existed in many regions in the UK but also in many regions of the EU.

“Our duty is to listen and understand the feelings of the people.”

Support us and go ad-free

We need your help to keep speaking the truth

Every story that you have come to us with; each injustice you have asked us to investigate; every campaign we have fought; each of your unheard voices we amplified; we do this for you. We are making a difference on your behalf.

Our fight is your fight. You’ve supported our collective struggle every time you gave us a like; and every time you shared our work across social media. Now we need you to support us with a monthly donation.

We have published nearly 2,000 articles and over 50 films in 2021. And we want to do this and more in 2022 but we don’t have enough money to go on at this pace. So, if you value our work and want us to continue then please join us and be part of The Canary family.

In return, you get:

* Advert free reading experience
* Quarterly group video call with the Editor-in-Chief
* Behind the scenes monthly e-newsletter
* 20% discount in our shop

Almost all of our spending goes to the people who make The Canary’s content. So your contribution directly supports our writers and enables us to continue to do what we do: speaking truth, powered by you. We have weathered many attempts to shut us down and silence our vital opposition to an increasingly fascist government and right-wing mainstream media.

With your help we can continue:

* Holding political and state power to account
* Advocating for the people the system marginalises
* Being a media outlet that upholds the highest standards
* Campaigning on the issues others won’t
* Putting your lives central to everything we do

We are a drop of truth in an ocean of deceit. But we can’t do this without your support. So please, can you help us continue the fight?

The Canary Support us