What are the new EU Brexit proposals on Northern Ireland?

EU Brexit chief Maros Sefcovic unveiled the proposals on Wednesday afternoon

Jon Stone
Policy Correspondent
Wednesday 13 October 2021 18:58
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Post-Brexit deal: UK escalates dispute with EU over N. Ireland protocol

Britain has demanded the EU make changes to the Northern Ireland Brexit deal, and on Wednesday afternoon the bloc unveiled its plans.

The European Commission proposals would see an 80 per cent reduction in spot checks on food crossing the Irish Sea, and a streamlining of the certificates needed.

Restrictions on “chilled meats” such as sausages would also be relaxed, customs paperwork on manufactured goods halved, and restrictions on moving medicines across the Irish Sea would be done away with.

But the plans crucially ignore UK demands for the European Court of Justice to be removed from the equation, which Brexit minister Lord Frost has said is a red line.

And the Commission said the light-touch approach would only work if the UK follows through on its earlier commitments to build new border control posts and give Brussels real-time access to trade data.

Agri-foods

The EU has offered to reduce checks on so-called agri-foods crossing the Irish Sea by 80 per cent.

This would see a reduction in identity checks on lorry drivers and invasive vehicle searches.

Crucially there would also be a reduction in the number of certificates required for lorries carrying a mixed load of different goods.

Currently, lorries with lots of different products onboard require a vet-approved export-health certificate for each different product line on the vehicle.

Instead of as many as 100 certificates, each lorry would only need one.

Customs

The EU said products deemed “not at risk” of illegally entering the EU would not be subject to customs duties.

So-called “trusted trader schemes” would also be expanded to a wider number of businesses.

Together the bloc said these changes would halve the volume of paperwork required on goods crossing the Irish Sea.

While the “not at risk” exemptions already exist, they previously only applied to Northern Ireland-based manufacturers with a low turnover. It would become a general exemption.

Under the plans, larger NI manufacturers and Great Britain based suppliers would be covered.

Medicines

The EU said it would pass legislation to keep the trade in medicines flowing between Great Britain and Northern Ireland

Under the original plans signed by Boris Johnson, supply chains would have been severely disrupted.

The original plans were never applied after the UK extended a grace period before implementation.

Stakeholders

The EU also said it wants to make sure it is responsive to the views of people and business on the ground in Northern Ireland.

It said it would create structured groups to establish a forum for discussion on the implementation of the Northern Ireland protocol.

According to the bloc’s outlines, relevant “stakeholders” such as trade associations could be invited to meetings of the “joint committee” that oversees the functioning of the deal.

And the bloc has also suggested involving the Stormont Assembly in the joint UK-EU parliamentary assembly, which is in the process of being established to oversee UK-EU relations.

It also said it would set up a website with clearer information about how EU legislation applies to Northern Ireland.

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