Brexit: Can the crux of the Northern Ireland issue be resolved?


Before this week’s tense Brexit negotiations and US President Joe Biden’s arrival in the UK to participate in the G7 summit, the dispute between the UK and the EU over Northern Ireland’s trade rules has escalated.

EU data including French Minister of European Affairs Clement Bohn on Monday Strike out In the comments of the Brexit Secretary David Frost The EU should abandon “legal purism” and embrace “common sense.”

An EU official retorted on Monday that the UK had already made a decision to either “in good faith” implement its Brexit agreement in Northern Ireland, or “continue on the more confrontational path it seems to have chosen so far”.

The official stated that Brussels is ready to explore “all tools and all options” to defend the interests of the European Union, noting that “patience is fading.”

The focus of the mutual accusations is the Northern Ireland agreement reached in 2019, which is a way to prevent hard trade borders on the island of Ireland by inspecting goods shipped from the UK to the region.

Unionist politicians and businesses in Northern Ireland have expressed dissatisfaction with a variety of issues, from potential future barriers to the import of generic drugs to the risk of a more general disruption caused by veterinary inspections of cargo crossing the Irish Sea.

Although the UK claims that the EU should show greater flexibility in the agreement, Brussels claims that it is doing everything it can to explore creative solutions, while complaining that the UK has failed to implement basic options such as sharing customs data.

Behind the scenes, officials on both sides have been working hard to find possible solutions, realizing that as some of the grace periods required in the agreement expire, tensions in the region may increase.

Veterinary inspection

There is no more troublesome area than veterinary inspections of food or live animals-but if politics can align with them, this is also an area where clear solutions exist.

Frost rejected the EU’s proposal that the UK should sign an agreement in accordance with the Swiss-EU veterinary agreement that links Swiss and EU norms.

British officials said this would limit Britain’s ability to reach trade agreements with the rest of the world. Sevcovic It has been said that such an arrangement may only be temporary.

The EU has in the past reached more relaxed veterinary agreements with countries including New Zealand and Canada. But these only reduced the frequency of physical examinations, and did not reduce the huge burden of paperwork such as exporting health certificates.

Odan Connolly, director of the Northern Ireland Retail Alliance, said that a temporary and fully unanimous agreement will solve most of the urgent issues of the agreement and provide room for finding long-term viable solutions.

He warned that unless an agreement is reached, companies will face a “liquidation moment” when the grace period expires in October, imposing additional burdens on the company.

“Frankly, companies are tired of games and drama on both sides. What we need is certainty,” he said.

Technical solutions

The British government argues that it has demonstrated its commitment to implement the agreement by investing £200 million in trader support services; an action assistance program to assist supermarkets and food retailers; and a £155 million digital assistance program aimed at Reduce border friction through digital procedures.

The DAS plan will start with fresh meat products in October this year, according to Government introduction The industry seen by the Financial Times, but it won’t be completed until October 2022.

However, trade groups warn that while digitization simplifies inspections, it will not provide a panacea, especially for small businesses that are not part of the MAS program, which is primarily designed to help supermarkets.

Shane Brennan, chief executive of the Cold Chain Federation, said that without a veterinary agreement, British companies that provide services to hotels, schools or prison departments that cannot use the supermarket plan will still face a burden, leaving many people unable to Started business with Northern Ireland.

“This may be helpful for large supermarkets-but for a transporter who transports 30 pallets from 15 different companies, only by removing paperwork through veterinary transactions can you build transaction confidence,” he said.

Medicine distribution

The agreement creates barriers to the sale of UK-made drugs in Northern Ireland, unless they also have the necessary EU regulatory approval and licensing arrangements.

This is because Northern Ireland is located in the European Union’s single commodity market. After the European Medicines Agency’s assessment, pharmaceutical companies need to obtain marketing authorization from the European Commission.

Industry experts warned that the distribution of generic drugs will be particularly prominent.

“We are aware that there is a problem, and we are absolutely willing to solve it,” an EU official said. “We are considering solutions that go beyond the flexibility inherent in applicable EU law.”

The EU asks the UK to take more action

Sefcovic has made it clear that the European Union is developing solutions to facilitate the travel of guide dogs and eliminate unnecessary repetitive requirements for marking of live animals. But British officials said they have not yet seen the details of these measures.

Brussels is also studying how to free Northern Ireland from EU restrictions on steel imports while still protecting the EU market.

But the EU in turn asked the UK to take more actions to address Brussels’ concerns about the UK’s failure to fulfill its legal obligations, including real-time access to customs data from EU officials and the construction of border control points for goods entering Northern Ireland permanently — the EU considers these steps It is required by law and is essential for protecting the single market.

“If new, expanded or expanded flexibilities are to be discussed, then we believe that the UK first needs to effectively implement the agreement,” EU officials said.

Additional report: Laura Noonan in Dublin



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