Brussels launched an infringement proceeding against the UK, the European Commission said in a statement on Thursday (November 14), accusing the country of "breaching its EU Treaty obligations by not suggesting a candidate for the post of EU Commissioner."
Prime Minister Boris Johnson had refused to appoint a candidate for the post, arguing that he was not in a position to do so in view of the upcoming general election on December 12.
In July, Johnson had promised that he would “under no circumstances” nominate a new European commissioner.
“So we will not nominate a UK Commissioner for the new Commission taking office on 1st December – under no circumstances – though clearly this is not intended to stop the EU appointing a new Commission”, Johnson told the House of Commons in his first speech to parliament as prime minister.
According to EU treaties, each member state has an obligation to nominate a commission member.
While the UK is in the process of leaving the EU following the 2016 Brexit referendum, it remains a full EU member until the official exit date, which has recently been extended to January 31, 2020.
So what's next in this legal case?
"The UK authorities have until Friday 22 November at the latest to provide their views. This short time period is justified by the fact that the next Commission must enter into office as soon as possible," the Commission said.
"After examining these observations, or if no observations are submitted within this time-limit, the Commission may, if appropriate, issue a Reasoned Opinion," the EU Commission said.
According to analysts, incoming EU chief Ursula von der Leyen is wary that Britain's failure to nominate a Commissioner will result in further delays for her tenure as Commission president.
MEPs blocked three picks for von der Leyen's team, deeming them unsuitable to become commissioners. That has pushed back the date she hoped her Commission would take over, from November 1 to December 1 at the earliest.
The infringement proceeding is, therefore, a way for von der Leyen to minimize the risks of a legal challenge against her new Commission, as MEPs are in the process of approving her replacement picks for commissioner posts.