The European Commission has paused its legal action against the United Kingdom for alleged breaches of the Northern Ireland Protocol, to buy time and space to consider the changes to the protocol sought by the UK in a paper published last week.

While it will not renegotiate the protocol itself, a commission spokesperson said "it is essential that we continue constructive discussions in the week ahead".

The European Commission was expected to issue a "reasoned opinion" - the next phase in a formal infringement proceeding - this week, after the UK unilaterally extended part of the protocol.

The goodwill gesture by the commission is in response to the Command Paper presented last week to the British Parliament by David Frost, the UK minster in charge of relations with the EU.

It called for a "standstill period", during which the EU would not proceed with its legal actions against the UK, and the UK would not make any more unilateral moves to disapply parts of the protocol.

During this period, the two sides would seek a new way forward on the operation of the protocol.

In a statement to RTÉ News, the commission said it "will carefully assess the new proposals made by the UK, in accordance with the necessary consultation procedures, both internally, and with the European Parliament.

"In order to provide the necessary space to reflect on these issues and find durable solutions to the implementation of the protocol, we have decided, at this stage, not to move to the next stage of the infringement procedure, started in March."

The commission says it noted the comments made by Mr Frost last week, and the contents of the "Command Paper" published last Thursday.

It says it "confirms its readiness" to continue to engage with the UK, and consider any proposals that respect the principles of the protocol.