The European Commission this Wednesday proposed a package of flexible measures to “respond to the difficulties that people in Northern Ireland have been facing due to Brexit”, in terms of the movement of goods from Great Britain.
The “tailor-made provisions” proposed by the community executive, which contemplate new flexibilities in the area of food, plant and animal health, customs and medicines, through the application of a different model for the implementation of the Northern Ireland Protocol, aim to respond not not only to the concerns of Belfast but also of London, which has been demanding the renegotiation of this element of the agreement to leave the United Kingdom from the EU.
Despite having signed the Protocol after years of negotiations, Boris Johnson’s government now claims that it is causing unexpected difficulties in the flow of goods to Northern Ireland, a scenario that Brussels is trying to improve with the package of proposals this Wednesday presented by the Commissioner for Interinstitutional Relations, Maros Sefcovic.
At its weekly meeting, the College of the Commission this Wednesday adopted four non-legislative texts covering different areas, the first of which was on a “customized” solution for Northern Ireland in terms of food, plant and animal health. – that is, “sanitary and phytosanitary issues – which it claims will lead to a reduction of approximately 80% of controls on goods to be consumed by the North Irish.
On the other hand, it proposes flexible customs formalities to facilitate the movement of goods from Great Britain to Northern Ireland, with a view to a reduction of around 50% of the bureaucracy currently in force, namely by halving the required documentation.
Another proposal concerns the uninterrupted security of the supply of medicines from Great Britain to Northern Ireland in the long term, which will require the EU to change its own medicines legislation, underlines the Commission.
Finally, Brussels proposes “greater engagement with Northern Ireland’s stakeholders and authorities”, to “improve the exchange of information” with Northern Ireland actors regarding the implementation of the Protocol and relevant EU measures, making the implementation of the agreement “more transparent, while respecting the constitutional order of the United Kingdom”.
The Commission is now ready to hold “intense discussions” with the UK Government, “with a view to reaching a jointly agreed permanent solution as soon as possible”.
“I have listened and engaged with Northern Ireland’s stakeholders. Today’s proposals are our genuine response to their concerns. Northern Ireland,” commented Commissioner Sefcovic.
The Commission says it believes “this package of measures will make a real difference on the ground in Northern Ireland and addresses the ‘Brexit’ related problems with regard to the movement of goods from Great Britain to Northern Ireland that have been raised for the peoples and businesses of Northern Ireland”.
“This package paves the way for a resolution of all outstanding implementation issues, thereby establishing predictability, stability and certainty for people and businesses in Northern Ireland,” argues the community executive.
One of the elements that most dragged on the negotiations around the UK’s exit from the European bloc – definitively consummated at the beginning of this year – was precisely the protocol aimed at avoiding the control of goods along the land border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, which remains an EU Member State.
The mechanism gives Northern Ireland a special status and maintains the territory in practice within the European single market due to the need to maintain an open border with the EU member Republic of Ireland in order to respect the peace process in the region. As a result, there are additional customs controls and documentation at the port of Belfast for goods arriving from the UK.
On Tuesday, in Lisbon, where the British Secretary of State for Relations with the European Union went symbolically, “on behalf of the oldest alliance in the United Kingdom”, to present the London version of the protocol amendments ( EU), David Frost, considered that the document constitutes “the greatest source of distrust” between the two parties, an issue that it intends to see resolved.