Share the Love

The UK's Brexit minister Lord Frost has urged the EU to show "common sense" during talks over post-Brexit rules in Northern Ireland.

The Conservative peer is meeting his EU counterpart Maros Sefcovic in London to discuss ways to reduce disruption on goods and deliveries.

Some delayed border checks are due to start next month, but both sides are calling on each other to compromise.

Mr Sefcovic has warned against "quick fixes" to border issues.

The UK and EU officials have been locked in talks over simplifying the Northern Ireland Protocol, part of the UK's 2019 Brexit withdrawal deal.

This created a trade border between Northern Ireland and Great Britain, in order to prevent goods checks along the Irish land border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

Why is there a UK-EU row over sausages?
EU warns UK over Irish Sea border goods checks
EU to begin legal action over NI Protocol 'breach'
That has required new border checks on GB goods going to Northern Ireland, meaning disruption to some food supplies and online deliveries.

The UK has unilaterally pushed back the full implementation of checks on supermarket goods and parcels to ease this disruption - prompting the EU to accuse the UK of undermining the protocol and beginning legal action.

The next phase of controls, on chilled meat products like sausages and mince, is due to begin on 1 July when a jointly-agreed grace period ends.

Ahead of this week's negotiations, Mr Sefcovic - a vice-president of the European Commission - has warned the UK against unilaterally extending this deadline too.

He said that if this were to happen, the EU "will not be shy in reacting swiftly, firmly and resolutely to ensure that the UK abides by its international law obligations".

But businesses in Northern Ireland have warned that the delays are causing not just disruption but extra costs for consumers.

2px presentational grey line
What's the impact?

Andrew Lynas owns a food service business serving the hospitality sector across Ireland.

He told Radio 4's Today programme that the new system was complex and bureaucratic.

"We buy cheese from a GB supplier and it used to be really simple. We'd place an order and three days later we would get the goods," he said.

"Now we place an order and we have to fill in eight different bits of paperwork and that lead time that was four days has now become 12 days and that has a huge impact on our customers."

He said there was an additional issue with goods coming from Europe: "I have an orange juice supplier in Spain, they then transport their goods to a warehouse in GB.

"We'll then take some of those goods in to Ireland but I will have to charge a tariff to my customers in the Republic of Ireland.

"That doesn't seem to make sense to me because the product doesn't actually change from when it is made in Spain to when it maybe ends up with our consumer here in Ireland."

2px presentational grey line
Ahead of the meeting, Lord Frost said: "Time is short and practical solutions are needed now to make the protocol work.

"I look to the EU to show flexibility and engage with our proposals so that we can find solutions that enjoy the confidence of all communities."

He said "further threats of legal action and trade retaliation" would not help consumers or businesses based in Northern Ireland.

Larne port
image captionNorthern Irish ports such as Larne have seen additional border checks under the protocol
"What is needed is pragmatism and common sense solutions to resolve the issues as they are before us," he added.

But business leaders in Northern Ireland have warned that both sides need to shift if practical solutions are to be found.

Director of the Northern Ireland Retail Consortium and convenor of the NI Business Brexit working group, Aodhan Connolly, says the issues can be sorted out if the political will is there to do so.

"What we are saying to the EU and to the UK very clearly is that it is wonderful that you are talking to us, but now we need solutions delivered to show that our faith and our hard work has been warranted."

He said an "immediate solution" was needed, "not just for business, we need to decompress the growing angst that is happening here in Northern Ireland".

Crossroads warning
Earlier this week, Lord Frost admitted the UK had "underestimated" the effect of the protocol in Northern Ireland, but also accused the EU of "legal purism" in how it has been interpreted.

But Theresa May's former chief of staff, Lord Barwell, has previously tweeted the government "knew it was a bad deal but they agreed it to get Brexit done".

And on the Today programme he said Boris Johnson - who was foreign secretary for some of the time the former prime minister was negotiating with the EU - "perfectly well understood" what the consequences were in terms of regulatory checks between Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

"He and David Frost are intelligent people. I find it inconceivable that they didn't understand what they were signing up to.

"They would have been advised very clearly by the civil service about that."

He said it was "clearly easier" for Mr Johnson to "fight an election with an oven ready Brexit deal" and the calculation was "sign up to whatever is on offer and then see if we can deal with anything we don't like down the line".

Mr Sefcovic denied the EU had been inflexible, saying it had shown it was prepared to "find creative solutions when required".

Speaking to reporters on Tuesday evening, he said the two sides were "approaching the crossroads" in how they deal with border issues.

"We can have two possible roads. One is road of cooperation, show and action and constructive engagement," he said.

"The other would lead us to more, to a difficult situation which would be generated by further unilateral actions."

Government 'knew NI Protocol was bad deal'
Can sea border ‘teething problems’ be solved?
He said he hoped he and Lord Frost would "find the solutions" to opt for the first path, because "only that will bring us to the long lasting solutions and not quick fixes".

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has said she will also raise Northern Ireland issues with Prime Minister Boris Johnson at this weekend's G7 summit in Cornwall.

As well as meeting to discuss issues in Northern Ireland, the UK and EU are set to hold their first-ever set of official talks over implementing the post-Brexit trade deal agreed late last year.

Among issues to be discussed are law enforcement co-operation, fees for visa applications and tensions over fishing rights.

Share the Love

You Might Also Like
Comments By User
Add Your Comment
Your comment must be minimum 30 and maximum 200 charachters.
Your comment must be held for moderation.
If you are adding link in comment, Kindly add below link into your Blog/Website and add Verification Link. Else link will be removed from comment.