European Union vows legal response as United Kingdom moves unilaterally on N.Ireland

04 Mars, 2021, 00:59 | Auteur: Anatole Charbonneau
  • PA Images

A new cross-Channel row erupted Wednesday as Britain threatened to break the terms of the Brexit withdrawal treaty by unilaterally delaying checks on food going to Northern Ireland.

The first of the grace periods had been due to expire at the end of March.

"He underlined that these were needed for operational reasons and were the minimum necessary steps to allow time for constructive discussions in the Joint Committee to continue", she said, adding that Frost said urgent progress was needed and that Britain was acting in good faith to meet its obligations.

The former Brexit negotiator in charge of forging the UK's new relationship with the bloc spoke to Commission vice-president Maros Sefcovic on Wednesday.

Mr Lewis said: 'For supermarkets and their suppliers, as part of the operational plan the UK committed to at the UK-EU Joint Committee on February 24, the current Scheme for Temporary Agri-food Movements to Northern Ireland (STAMNI) will continue until October 1.

He noted that such operational measures were "well precedented" in other worldwide trade arrangements.

"This is the second time that the United Kingdom government is set to breach global law", the statement said.

A request to extend the adjustment period for medicines to be sent from GB to Northern Ireland was also made.

In a statement, the European Union expressed "strong concerns" at a move it said amounted to a violation of the substantive provisions of the Northern Ireland Protocol, the most contentious part of Britain's divorce deal with the EU.

"This is the second time that the UK Government is set to breach global law".

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On 3 February, the United Kingdom formally requested that the European Commission extend this grace period, which would waive new checks and required paperwork for agri-foods, along with a number of other sectors, until 1 January 2023.

Sefcovic - who co-chairs with Frost a joint EU-UK committee meant to work through issues related to the Brexit treaty - stressed that the agreement aims to protect the 1998 Good Friday Agreement that brought an end to decades of political violence in Northern Ireland.

The disruption caused widespread confusion among businesses, with some United Kingdom suppliers refusing to ship goods across the Irish Sea.

Speaking today, the UK's Northern Ireland secretary Brandon Lewis said Certification requirements will be introduced in phases alongside the rollout of a digital assistance scheme.

Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis said: 'As part of the pragmatic and proportionate implementation of the Northern Ireland Protocol, the Government is taking several temporary operational steps to avoid disruptive cliff edges as engagement with the European Union continues through the Joint Committee.

He said further guidance will be provided later this week on parcel movements from Great Britain to Northern Ireland, to provide necessary additional time for traders beyond April 1.

'These recognise that appropriate time must be provided for businesses to implement new requirements, and support the effective flow of goods between Great Britain and Northern Ireland'.

'Guidance will also be set out to help address practical problems on soil attached to the movement of plants, seeds, bulbs, vegetables and agricultural machinery'.

The Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney has said the British government's decision to unilaterally extend grace periods for food imports to Northern Ireland was "deeply unhelpful".

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