New measures on the Brexit Protocol will create an “express line” on trade between Northern Ireland and Great Britain, resulting in a “win-win situation” for all, the EU’s lead negotiator has said.
European Commission vice president Maros Sefcovic said the bloc will offer to permanently slash customs paperwork by 50 per cent, along with the removal of up to 80 per cent of checks.
Mr Sefcovic was speaking at the Brexit Institute at Dublin City University on Friday, immediately before crunch talks with his counterpart UK Lord David Frost.
Good morning. Day two of the #NIProtocolConf - which is part of the Law and Politics of #Brexit Series - starts at 9.30am, with a keynote speech from @MarosSefcovic, VP of the @EU_Commission for Interinstitutional Relations. #NIProtocolConf (Image credit: European Union, 2014) pic.twitter.com/4MYUW8oyotAdvertisement
— DCU Brexit Institute (@DCU_Brexit_Inst) November 19, 2021
He called on the UK to “reciprocate” but welcomed the recent “change in tone” in talks.
Mr Sefvoic said the “comprehensive long-term solution” that would see “further facilitation and simplification” of customs checks will result in a “50 per cent permanent reduction in existing paperwork”.
He added: “These measures would create a type of express line, which would substantially facilitate trade between all parties, a win-win situation for all.
“It is a unique and completely new model for how goods can be moved from Great Britain to Northern Ireland, one that will strengthen opportunities for people and businesses alike.”
He added: “It will make the application of the protocol more transparent while at the same time respecting the UK’s constitutional order.
“A website will also be set up to show in a clear and comprehensive way the EU legislation applicable in Northern Ireland.”
However, Mr Sefcovic has warned that the post-Brexit trade deal is “intrinsically linked” to settling the withdrawal agreement, which includes the Northern Ireland Protocol.
“Settling the divorce has always been and remains a precondition for our future relationship” he said.
“It was on this basis that we negotiated, concluded and ratified the trade and co-operation agreement on Christmas Eve last year.
“The two agreements are intrinsically linked, one cannot exist without the other.”
Mr Sefcovic also welcomed a “change in tone” from the UK government in negotiations on the protocol, but said they now must reciprocate on the measures.
He said: “Right now we need the UK government to reciprocate the significant move the EU has made.
“I notice and welcome a recent change in tone from the UK government, and we hope that actions will follow the words.”
However, he ruled out a renegotiation of the protocol.
He said: “Our solutions can become reality if the UK plays its part. That is why we have engaged constructively with the UK in order to agree joint solutions.
“But we also make clear, with the full support of the European Parliament and the member states, that we will not renegotiate the protocol.
“To do so would mean to put at risk the stability in Northern Ireland, and it would be unnecessary because solutions are available within the framework of the protocol.”
Mr Sefcovic said Northern Ireland could “benefit immensely” from having dual access to the EU’s single market and the UK internal market.
“Northern Ireland is a unique place to invest and should be a powerful magnet for foreign investment” because of its “unparalleled access to two of the world’s largest markets”, he said.