The European Union has said it “will not hesitate” to use dispute resolution mechanisms in the Brexit deal if the UK breaches the agreement.
Ursula von der Leyen, the European Commission president, was speaking as MEPs prepared to ratify the deal thrashed out between the EU and UK.
Von der Leyen told the European Parliament the agreement protects citizens and their rights, helps to avoid “significant disruptions for workers and travellers, from the fishing community to the business community”.
The Trade and Co-operation Agreement (TCA) “protects European interests and preserves the integrity of our single market” and “ensures high levels of protection on everything from social and labour rights, to environmental protection, to tax transparency and state aid”.
The agreement has “real teeth”, with a binding dispute resolution mechanism and the possibility for “unilateral remedial measures where necessary”.
The commission president added: “Let me be clear: We do not want to have to use these tools. But we will not hesitate to use them if necessary.”
The politician said there has been “some progress” on resolving the issues around Northern Ireland’s post-Brexit arrangements, as he gave a positive assessment of the work being carried out by the EU’s Maros Sefcovic and the UK’s Lord Frost.
She said: “In recent days and weeks, we have seen a new, constructive dynamic and we will continue to work closely with the UK to find constructive solutions that respect what was agreed.
“The next step is to mutually agree on compliance paths, with concrete deadlines and milestones.”
She added: “We need solutions, not soundbites, if we are to make the protocol work for the benefit of everyone in Northern Ireland.”