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EU set to take UK to court over WEEE delay

The UK Government has yet to formally notify the European Commission (EC) about its decision to delay the implementation of the Waste Electrical Electronic Equipment (WEEE) Directive - almost one week after the Department of Trade and Industry issued a press release about the six-month postponement to June 2006.

This leaves the UK facing referral to the European Court of Justice, as it has not provided the EC with any formal explanation for its failure to implement the regulations by the deadline of Aug 13.

The EC has previously notified the UK that it faced legal proceedings, including possible fines, over its lack of preparation for the WEEE directive.

A Commission spokesman told MRW : "Member states cannot suddenly decide that they want to postpone a directive. At the end of the day the EC will refer them to the Court of Justice."

He noted that France, Malta and Poland had also failed to meet their requirements under the WEEE directive.

The Court of Justice can impose large fines for failure to implement EC directives, though member states are more likely to be given other options to comply before being penalised.

"It is a very long road before we get to that stage (of imposing fines)," said the EC spokesman.

Indeed, the UK government appears to have factored in a court appearance, but is hopeful that it will have implemented the WEEE directive before the legal process reaches any conclusion.

A DTI spokesman commented: "We had been speaking to the Commission for months before the delay (to implementing the WEEE directive) was announced.

They have initiated infraction proceedings against the UK and I believe the case will go to court."

He explained, however: "We had to take account of the infraction proceedings from the EU but also the risk of implementing the WEEE Directive in haste and not getting it right. Our job is to ensure we get it right."

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