I read in a FT article that, in the case of a no-deal Brexit:

If Ireland breaches the integrity of the single market by failing to control its border, it will be liable at the European Court of Justice.

Are there any precedents in EU/ECJ case law for failing to enforce borders, and if so, what was the outcome? If not, what law provisions (possible remedies) are there regarding the outcome of such a case?


2 Answers 2


I'm not aware of any previous cases of this, at least not on such a massive scale as the Irish border would represent. As for remedies, the ECJ can issue fines to member states. Beyond that the EU would have to get involved and decide on sanctions, such as withdrawal of support (subsidies etc.) or even ejection from the union (although that is extremely unlikely).

In practice the EU is very unlikely to punish Ireland for what it considers to be a problem of the UK's making, and seems understanding of the desire to have no border infrastructure to prevent violence and division.

In fact there would more likely be measures taken to try to force the UK to accept the so-called "backstop" of staying in the customs union. That could include things like refusing to allow UK aircraft to cross EU airspace such as Ireland and Sweden, making it very difficult for UK airlines to operate.


There's something relating to taxes/duties, involving the UK and undervalued Chinese imports: Are there precedents for the EU fining the UK for undervalued Chinese imports? The Commission is asking for some 2.7 billion euros as compensation (I gather); the UK disagrees, at least with the figure. That issue had not made it to ECJ, but it looks like it's gonna.

This issue of not detecting undervaluing of imports is not quite the same thing as not enforcing the border at all though. But the EU is clearly willing to impose fines on this issue of taxes/duties at the border. On the other hand, the case seems to have gained wind after the Brexit announcement. It's pretty unclear if there are any EU precedents (in terms of fines) even on that narrower front (of tax/duty evasion at border). So it's also unclear if the EU would have the same tenacity in pursuing (on that) a country that is still a "loyal member" of the EU. Greece and Hungary are now in the hot seat of undervalued Chines imports passing through their customs, but no fines have been announced for them.

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