Boris demands EU make 'repairs' to the Northern Ireland Brexit deal

Boris Johnson demands the EU make ‘repairs’ to the Northern Ireland Brexit deal as Brussels warns that the UK faces DAILY fines unless it honours the agreement in place despite unionist fury

  • PM repeated his complaint that Brussels is being’excessively legally purist’
  • The two sides have clashed over grace period for checks on perishable goods 
  • Check-free period due to end at the end of June but has now been extended
  • Mr Johnson was challenged over a long-term solution by Tory eurosceptic

Boris Johnson today demanded the EU make ‘repairs’ to the Northern Ireland Protocol as the row over the Brexit agreement continued to simmer today.

The Prime Minister repeated his complaint that Brussels is taking an ‘excessively legally purist’ approach to implementing the international agreement he signed off at the end of last year.

The two sides have clashed over the UK’s unilateral decision to extend a grace period for checks on perishable goods including chilled meats between Britain and Northern Ireland.

The grace period, which was due to end at the end of June, has now been extended, but Mr Johnson was challenged over a long-term solution by eurosceptic Tory David Jones at Prime Minister’s Questions today. 

Former minister Mr Jones said the extension amounts to a ‘temporary sticking plaster’ and demanded the UK ‘do whatever is necessary – legislative or otherwise – to fix the problem permanently’.

Mr Johnson replied: ‘There remains very serious problems in what I believe is the misapplication, the excessively legally purist application of that deal, of that protocol, and what we’re hoping for is some progress from the European Commission, some repairs that I think they should make to the way that this is working.’

It came after the European Commission’s Brexit envoy Maros Sefcovic yesterday  raised the prospect of heightened sanctions from Brussels, including regular fines.


The Prime Minister repeated his complaint that Brussels is taking an ‘excessively legally purist’ to implementing the international agreement he signed off at the end of last year, after a question by David Jones (left)

Tension has mounted over trade arrangements for Northern Ireland, particularly for chilled meats, because the province’s open border with EU member Ireland is Britain’s only land frontier with the EU and its vast single market.

‘To build trust in each other requires first working together cooperatively and refraining from surprises,’ he said at a conference, referring to Britain’s unilateral extension of grace periods for some food imports to Northern Ireland.

‘In response, we were forced to launch an infringement procedure (legal action), and without satisfactory steps by the UK to remedy these measures we will have no choice but to step up these legal proceedings,’ he told a conference.

The Northern Ireland Protocol aims at avoiding a hard border on the island by effectively keeping the province in the EU’s single market for goods. 

Tension has mounted over trade arrangements for Northern Ireland, particularly for chilled meats, because the province’s open border with EU member Ireland is Britain’s only land frontier with the EU and its vast single market. 

But Unionists have complained the terms are splitting Northern Ireland from Great Britain and hitting the pockets of businesses. 

Last Wednesday the EU announced a number of solutions to ease the implementation of the Protocol.  

As well as agreeing to the grace period extension it changed its rules to allow medicines to continue to flow from the UK into Northern Ireland and waived the obligation to show the motor insurance green card for drivers from the UK.

Despite this, UK Cabinet ministers have turned up their rhetoric in a bid to push Brussels into further concessions by warning of possible disruption to peace in the region.

In a joint article in the Irish Times on Saturday, Brexit Minister Lord Frost and Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis said the extension of the grace period on chilled meats was ‘welcome’ but added that it ‘addresses only a small part of the underlying problem’.

They warned the deal risks ‘damage’ to the Good Friday Agreement, which in 1998 helped to secure peace after decades of sectarian violence in Northern Ireland, unless a ‘new balance’ is found in terms of customs checks.

European Commission Brexit envoy Maros Sefcovic yesterday raised the prospect of heightened sanctions from Brussels, including regular fines

The European Union yesterday urged London to consider a Swiss-style veterinary agreement on agri-foods to end the row

Britain’s ambassador to the EU, Lindsay Appleby, told the conference that London sees ‘a very broad and very significant range of problems’ stemming from the protocol that needs to be addressed while the EU sees only ‘a few very specific problems’.

‘It can’t really be the case that prohibiting the movement of British sausages is necessary for the preservation of the single market,’ Appleby said. ‘The problems are much more severe than the kind of problems that the Commission is currently talking about solutions to.’

Sefcovic said a longer-term solution to avoid Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) checks for agri-food products, ranging from live animals to fresh meat and plant products, could be along the lines of an agreement the EU has with Switzerland.

That pact removes nearly all physical SPS checks, though not documentary checks, and achieves this through a dynamic regulatory mechanism that creates a Common Veterinary Area.

‘This could be negotiated very quickly and would address many concerns,’ Sefcovic said. ‘The UK continuing to apply EU SPS rules will do away with a vast majority of the checks in the Irish Sea and would not require checks elsewhere, say in Northern Ireland.’

He said he was aware of the British government’s concerns about such a solution, but added it was important ‘not to get too caught up’ with concerns about alignment of rules and regulations between Britain and the EU.

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