Brussels sues UK and threatens enormous daily fines as Boris Johnson refuses to name an EU Commissioner despite Brexit being delayed

  • Brussels has given London a deadline of November 22 to nominate its delegate
  • Boris Johnson has refused to do so because the UK is in the middle of an election 
  • Convention is that such decisions are made after government has been chosen 
  • But Brussels hit back saying the UK was 'in breach of its EU treaty obligations' 

Brussels launched legal action against the UK last night over Boris Johnson's failure to nominate a British member of the next European Commission.

It came after the UK's ambassador to Brussels, Sir Tim Barrow, told incoming EU Commission president Ursula von der Leyen that Mr Johnson would not be appointing one because of the General Election.

He cited a British convention that 'the UK should not normally make nominations for international appointments' during an election campaign.

But Brussels hit back, saying Britain was 'in breach of its EU treaty obligations' by not nominating a commissioner because it is still a member state.

European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen's wants wants the new commission to begin on December 1, two weeks before Britons go to the polls (pictured: Mrs von der Leyen delivers a speech at the Paris Peace Forum on Tuesday)

European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen's wants wants the new commission to begin on December 1, two weeks before Britons go to the polls (pictured: Mrs von der Leyen delivers a speech at the Paris Peace Forum on Tuesday)

It has given the UK until November 22 to respond.

Each EU country is supposed to nominate a member to sit on the EU Commission's ruling college.

Mrs von der Leyen wants the new commission to begin on December 1, two weeks before Britons go to the polls.

In theory, if the UK continues to refuse to appoint a commissioner, it could be hauled before the European Court of Justice and be fined.

The new commission was initially scheduled to take office on November 1, the day after Britain was scheduled to leave the bloc.

But European lawmakers rejected three commission candidates from other countries, delaying the process, and the EU agreed to delay Britain's departure from the bloc until January 31.

Sending a letter of formal notice is the first step in a lengthy legal procedure if the EU Commission deems a member state to be in contravention of EU rules.

In the final stages of an infringement procedure the EU Commission can refer such a case to the bloc's highest court, which can in turn impose financial penalties.

Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson reacts during his visit to the West Monkton CEVC Primary School during a general election campaign trail in Taunton

Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson reacts during his visit to the West Monkton CEVC Primary School during a general election campaign trail in Taunton

The European Commission, the powerful executive arm of the EU that proposes laws and ensures they are implemented throughout the bloc, should have 28 members, including the president, one representing each member country.

But with Britain's scheduled departure, Mrs von der Leyen did not include a British commissioner in her proposed list when she unveiled her team in September.

The 27 other states, however, insisted Britain should come up with a name when they granted the country another Brexit delay last month.

Mrs von der Leyen twice wrote to the Prime Minister demanding that someone be named. Mr Johnson previously vowed not to do so. 

Meanwhile, two of the replacements for the rejected candidates from France, Hungary and Romania were approved by lawmakers assessing whether they were fit for the job.

The European Parliament press office said Thierry Breton, who was nominated after France's initial pick, Sylvie Goulard, was rejected last month over allegations she misused EU funds, was accepted as the next commissioner overseeing the EU's internal market, industrial policy, defense and the space industry.

Adina Valean of Romania, who has been endorsed for the transports portfolio, also passed the test. Oliver Varhelyi, the Hungarian candidate commissioner for the bloc's enlargement, was asked to answer additional written questions by Monday.

Breton's bid had raised fears of potential conflicts of interests because of his former role as CEO at Atos, a company with activities including big data management and cybersecurity.

But the former French finance minister has resigned from his position and sold off his shares in Atos. He also told lawmakers he will recuse himself on cases relating to his former company. 

Brussels sues UK and threatens enormous daily fines as Boris Johnson refuses to name EU Commissioner

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