EU to Delay Brexit Legal Action Amid Northern Ireland Violence

The European Union is set to postpone legal action against the U.K. for breaching the Northern Irish Brexit deal, according to two people familiar with the matter, as riots grip the province.

The EU began proceedings last month after Britain unilaterally extended a waiver on checks on some goods entering Northern Ireland from Great Britain. The temporary exemption was part of the trade agreement aimed at keeping the Irish border free of checkpoints after the U.K. left the bloc.

The EU had eyed April 15 to push forward, but is holding off as it works on a joint plan with the U.K. to defuse the issues, according to the people, who asked not to be identified as deliberations are ongoing. The European Commission declined to comment.

Those considerations come as tensions flare in Northern Ireland, with pro-British loyalists protesting against the Brexit deal, which they say risks cutting them off from the mainland at the EU’s behest. The worst riots in years have injured more than 70 police officers, and a hardline approach by the EU risks inflaming the situation further.

The commission had asked the U.K. to provide a credible roadmap for the implementation of the deal, but the two people said the proposals weren’t satisfactory. Nevertheless, the EU has decided to work with the U.K. on a joint plan and put legal steps on ice in the interim, the people added.

The delay buys time to resolve the difficulties, according to one of the people, with the bloc determined not to deepen divisions with the U.K. at a particularly sensitive time.

Under the deal negotiated by U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Northern Ireland effectively stayed in the EU’s customs union and much of the single market. This avoided the need for border checks on the island of Ireland, but introduced them for the first time on goods coming into the province from Britain, leading to delays and disruption.

The U.K. temporarily exempted some goods from the checks for a time, but last month extended the grace period further without notice.

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