Brexit legal action: European Commission blinks first

The EU has paused its legal action against the UK for alleged breaches of the Northern Ireland Protocol, the BBC reports.

It said it was doing so to create the "necessary space" to consider UK proposals for reforming the deal.

The legal action was started in March after the UK took unilateral action to change the implementation of the protocol.

At that time the UK delayed new checks on food, parcels and pets entering Northern Ireland from Great Britain.

The Northern Ireland Protocol was agreed by the UK and EU to avoid a hard border in Ireland.

It does that by keeping Northern Ireland in the EU's single market for goods.

That has created a new trade border in the Irish Sea, causing some difficulties in moving goods from Great Britain to Northern Ireland.

Last week, the UK published proposals for the protocol, which amounted to a request for a major renegotiation.

It also asked for a standstill period, which would involve pausing the legal action and extending so-called grace periods.

The EU has already said it will not renegotiate the protocol but will "consider any proposals that respect the principles" of the deal.

However, it has not ruled out the standstill period.

A European Commission spokesperson said: "With regards to the request for a standstill, the commission will carefully assess the new proposals made by the UK, in accordance with the necessary consultation procedures, both internally and with the European Parliament.

"In order to provide the necessary space to reflect on these issues and find durable solutions to the implementation of the protocol, we have decided at this stage not to move to the next stage of the infringement procedure, started in March."

A government spokesperson said they had received a "constructive reply from the Commission".

"We look forward to engaging in talks with the EU in the weeks ahead to progress the proposals in our command paper," they added.

"As we set out in the Command Paper last week, significant changes are needed to ensure the Protocol is sustainable for future."

Earlier, the EU published its proposals for simplifying some aspects of the protocol, including a plan for ensuring the continued supply of medicines from Great Britain to Northern Ireland.

The proposals were previously announced in broad terms at the end of June, but the UK government said they do not go far enough.

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