EU to unveil proposals aimed at resolving Northern Ireland Protocol row

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Eu To Unveil Proposals Aimed At Resolving Northern Ireland Protocol Row
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Reuters

The European Commission will on Wednesday put to the UK a package of measures to ease the transit of goods to Northern Ireland, while stopping short of the overhaul the UK government is demanding of post-Brexit trading rules for the North.

The EU executive's measures are designed to ease customs controls, such as the clearance of meat, dairy and other food products and the flow of medicines to the North from Britain.

However, it will not open up for renegotiation the protocol governing the North's unique trading position, leaving Brussels and London on a potential collision course.

Maros Sefcovic, the commission vice-president in charge of EU-UK relations, will present the plans to EU countries and to members of the European Parliament on Wednesday afternoon before a news conference scheduled for 5.30pm Irish time.

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The commission will also set out plans to engage more with people in the North.

Sausages

The proposals could enable supermarkets to supply Northern Irish stores with sausages and other chilled meat products from Britain that are banned from entry into the European Union — and so in theory into Northern Ireland.

While remaining part of the UK, Northern Ireland has stayed in the EU's single market for goods, meaning its exports to the rest of the bloc face no customs checks, tariffs or paperwork.

Mr Sefcovic has said the arrangement allows Northern Irish businesses to enjoy the best of both worlds. However, the result is an effective customs border in the Irish Sea, disturbing trade from Britain to the North and angering the province's pro-British unionists.

If... this is rejected, then indeed we have a problem.

Under the commission's plans, British sausages, for example, would be allowed into Northern Ireland as long as they were solely intended for Northern Irish consumers.

"That's our proposal. We will put it on the table. If... this is rejected, then indeed we have a problem," Mr Sefcovic said in comments last week.

British Brexit minister David Frost said in a speech on Tuesday that London would be ready to discuss the proposals "whatever they say", but also demanded a new "forward-looking" protocol, one without oversight from European judges.

European judges

Under the terms of the Brexit deal struck by the UK and EU in 2019, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) would be the final arbitrator in any future trade dispute between the two parties on the operation of the protocol.

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The UK now wants to remove that provision and replace it with an independent arbitration process.

The EU has said it cannot see how a body other than the EU's top court could rule on the EU single market.

Mr Sefcovic has also said that during his visit last month to Northern Ireland, almost no one raised the ECJ as a problem.

Addressing a virtual event in Dublin last week, he said: “If we are talking about the constructive solutions to the practical problems, I think that doing away with the European Court of Justice is not one of them.”

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