NEW: The EU will take a measured response to any further unilateral moves by the UK to delay implementation of the Northern Ireland Protocol, with senior officials signalling a staggered approach to legal action and arbitration, @rtenews understands.
2/ This would be to avoid falling into what diplomats fear would be the “trap” of escalating tensions around the Protocol as the loyalist marching season in Northern Ireland approaches its peak.
3/ The UK is widely expected to unilaterally extend a grace period, agreed with the EU in December, which delays the ban on chilled meats entering Northern Ireland from GB, and which expires on July 1.
4/ However, it’s understood the EU’s main interlocutor @MarosSefcovic has advised member states the EU should avoid immediately responding with hard-hitting legal action, or even to retaliate by introducing tariffs or other measures through the Trade and Cooperation Agreement
5/ Despite that, member states - especially France and Germany - have urged the European Commission to develop a range of “precise” legal responses to further unilateral moves by London.
6/ It’s understood Mr Sefcovic has told member states the Commission is considering three measures, which could be staggered over time.
7/ The EU has already initiated infringement proceedings against the UK for unilaterally extending grace periods on food safety and animal health measures without consulting the European Commission.
8/ In March the Commission issued a “letter of formal notice”, the first step in legal action under the Withdrawal Agreement.

The EU has largely rejected the UK’s response to the letter, and the next step - a “reasoned opinion” - could be issued shortly.
9/ Mr Sefcovic has told member states that that legal track could end up in the European Court of Justice as early as September.
10/ The second approach would be to initiate arbitration proceedings through the Withdrawal Agreement, and a third would be to trigger retaliatory measures through the Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA), which covers the future relationship between the EU and UK.
11/ It’s understood the EU regards this third option as the most serious. Diplomats suggest the EU will not immediately trigger that option if the UK unilaterally extends the grace period for chilled meats, including sausages, on July 1.
12/ Instead, the Commission is recommending that such action would be as a result of cumulative unilateral action by the UK, and a failure to implement the Protocol, over time.
13/ “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,” says one source, familiar with a briefing Mr Sefcovic gave to EU ambassadors.
14/ “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.”
15/ Meanwhile, it’s understood the EU will accelerate a solution to the medicines issue, which has provoked headlines in recent weeks.
16/ Sefcovic told MS the EU shd not be accused of holding up the supply of medicines from GB to NI as a result of technical aspects to the Protocol.
17/ Officials are thought to be exploring options whereby any medicines produced in GB can be licensed to be sold in Northern Ireland, despite the fact that the Protocol originally envisaged the European Medicines Agency being primarily responsible for authorising drugs...
18/ ...and “authorised holders” of licences needing to be located in Northern Ireland or in an EU member state.
19/ The Commission has also told member states that the Protocol does not alter the fact that the UK is primarily responsible for public health in, and the supply of medicines to, Northern Ireland.
20/ Despite the deepening tension between both sides, EU sources say they hope that the technical talks between the EU and UK on the Protocol could deliver a breakthrough at some point.

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More from @tconnellyRTE

10 Jun
Now that sausage wars are a thing, it’s worth pointing out what is at issue: this is not about the EU and UK banning each other’s sausages, never mind a “sausage war”
2/ The EU is raising the prospect of arbitration / cross retaliation through the TCA dispute mechanisms because of the alleged bad faith by the UK in not implementing the NI Protocol per se (and the unilateral actions it has taken)
3/ Those unilateral actions have had to do with grace periods, mutually agreed in December, relating to meats, Export Health Certificates, plants and pets
Read 17 tweets
9 Jun
Quick thread on today’s Joint Committee: view in Brussels is that it was not as bad as it could have been, but the situation remains grim...
2/ Positive elements: it didn’t turn into a fully fledged confrontation and both sides will continue working and talking; both sides agreed for the need to lower the political temperature; at not point did @DavidGHFrost say the UK wd give up on the Protocol or trigger Article 16
3/ However, I understand the UK refused to agree to a joint statement, due in part to an objection to language that both sides were fully committed to implementing the NI Protocol (checking this with UK side)
Read 15 tweets
7 Jun
EU official: Joint Committee likely to be the most difficult of the two mtgs this week. 2 issues: 1/ citizens rights, deadline for residents applications end of June 2/ Protocol on IE/NI
“No doubt protocol biggest issue this week. To avoid a hard border & gains of peace process EU & U.K. need to work jointly and in good faith”
Only joint solutions, as agreed by EU & UK will bring about benefits of Protocol
Read 4 tweets
4 Jun
NEW: The EU is growing increasingly pessimistic about the prospects of a breakthrough on how the Northern Ireland Protocol is implemented, with senior officials and diplomats warning that the UK appears determined to undermine it.
2/ Senior figures have told @rtenews that a mtg of the EU-UK Joint Cttee next week will be more a showdown over the UK’s continued sniping against the Protocol, and ongoing unilateral moves to delay its implementation, rather than a breakthrough that might end months of tension.
3/ It had previously been hoped that both sides might agree on a combination of flexibilities and a roadmap to full implementation of the Protocol at next week’s meeting.
Read 18 tweets
28 May
NEW: Update on NI Protocol:
1/ The EU and UK are making progress on key aspects of the NI Protocol, with signs that an agreement on the medicines issue could be found soon, @rtenews understands
2/ However, Brussels has registered its concerns with the UK for its constant criticisms of the EU’s approach to the Protocol, which, diplomats say, are then echoed by unionist parties in Northern Ireland.
Read 20 tweets
25 May
Remarks by @vonderleyen on the Northern Ireland Protocol following last night's European Council in Brussels:
2/ "There should be no doubt that there is no alternative to the full and correct implementation of the Protocol.
3/ "And I think it is important to reiterate that the Protocol is the only possible solution to ensure peace and stability in Northern Ireland, while protecting the integrity of the European Union Single Market.
Read 6 tweets

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