EU takes legal action vs UK over Brexit deal delays

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FILE - In this Friday, Dec. 11, 2020 file photo, lorries queue at Check-in at the port in Dover, Britain, before entering the EU. Britain announced Thursday, March 11, 2021 that it is delaying the imposition of checks on some goods from the European Union to give businesses more time to prepare for new post-Brexit rules. The U.K. government says it is postponing full border controls until Jan. 1, six months later than planned, because of disruption caused by the coronavirus pandemic. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein, file)

The divorce between the U.K. and the EU is turning nastier by the day.

The European Union said Monday it is starting legal action against the United Kingdom, arguing the former member does not respect the conditions of the Brexit withdrawal agreement and is violating international law.

The 27-nation EU is objecting to Britain unilaterally extending a grace period beyond Apr. 1 that applies to trade on the island of Ireland, where the EU and the United Kingdom share a land border and where a special trade system was set up as part of the Brexit divorce deal.

“The recent measures once again set the U.K. on the path of a deliberate breach of its international law obligations and the duty of good faith that should prevail,” EU Vice President Maros Sefcovic wrote to his U.K. counterpart David Frost.

It marks a further worsening of relations between the two sides since a divorce transition period ended on Jan. 1. Disputes have ranged from fights over vaccines, to the full diplomatic recognition of the EU in Britain and now again the terms of the divorce agreement.

On March 3 the U.K. decided to unilaterally extend a grace period until October on checks for goods moving between Britain and Northern Ireland.

Northern Ireland is part of the United Kingdom but remained part of the EU’s single market for goods after Brexit to avoid a hard border that could revive sectarian violence. That means that products arriving from Britain face EU import regulations.

A U.K. government spokesperson said it will respond to the EU Commission “in due course," insisting the measures are temporary and aimed at reducing disruptions in Northern Ireland.