EU President Says Sanctions are Option if U.K., EU Can't Come to Trade Agreement

Tensions have been rising in Northern Ireland as further delays in implementing Brexit agreement strategies from the U.K. have led to supply shortages, and the EU has threatened sanctions as a possibility should the U.K. and EU fail to reach an agreement.

European Commission President Ursula Von der Leyen said there were options within the Brexit agreement which the EU may turn to for a resolution, the Associated Press reported. These options include referring the trade dispute to an arbitration panel, which could lead to financial sanctions for the U.K., or punitive tariffs on import goods from Britain.

The "Northern Ireland Protocol" was enacted to ensure free trade between the Republic Ireland, which remains an EU member, and Northern Ireland, which is part of the U.K., even after Britain left the EU.

Von der Leyen said the EU's primary goal was to fully implement the Brexit plans, and that the EU is "determined to do everything to keep peace and stability on the island of Ireland. It is important that there is deep respect for the protocol, that we protect it."

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Brexit tensions
LONDON, ENGLAND - JUNE 09: Vice-President of the European Commission for Interinstitutional Relations Maroš Šefčovič (R) departs from Europe House after giving a press conference on June 09, 2021 in London, England. The United Kingdom is at odds with the European Union over enforcement of provisions in the Northern Ireland protocol that governs post-Brexit trade. Rob Pinney/Getty Images

Top European Union officials vowed Thursday to use all measures available to ensure that the United Kingdom respects the terms of its Brexit agreement with the bloc as tensions rise over trade involving Northern Ireland.

"It is paramount to implement what we have decided. This is a question of rule of law," European Council President Charles Michel said. "We will use all the tools we have in order to make sure that we defend our interests and to protect the integrity of the single market."

In an effort to defuse the row, Michel and von der Leyen are set to hold talks with U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson on the sidelines of a summit of the Group of Seven major powers in England.

The row centers on provisions of the Brexit deal that essentially created a regulatory border between Northern Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom. That angered many pro-British residents of the territory who reject anything that threatens their status as part of the U.K.

The protocol requires Britain to check certain goods shipped to the region from elsewhere in the U.K.

Earlier this year, Britain unilaterally delayed some of those inspections, saying it needed more time to put the right systems in place. The EU threatened legal action over what it saw as a breach of Britain's international obligations. Now the U.K. government is considering further delays.

Von der Leyen told reporters that the EU has "shown flexibility, we will show flexibility, but the protocol and the (Brexit) Withdrawal Agreement has to be implemented completely."

Charles Michel
European Council President Charles Michel speaks during a joint news conference with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen ahead of the G7 summit, at the EU headquarters in Brussels, Thursday, June 10, 2021. Charles Michel and Ursula von der Leyen will attend the G7 summit in Cornwall, southwest England. Francisco Seco, Pool/AP Photo