Brexit: Frost calls for ‘flexible’ approach to Northern Ireland Protocol
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The EU Commission chief said four papers will be dedicated to the EU’s proposals on how to improve trade relations between Great Britain and Northern Ireland. The so-called Brexit protocol has been a point of contention since the full implementation of the Withdrawal Agreement. Lord Frost demanded the role of the European Court of Justice (ECJ) would be scrapped from the protocol, but the EU failed to budge on such demand.
However, Brussels backtracked on major measures regarding trade of agri-food goods and medicines and also took a step back on customs.
Additionally, it offered Northern Ireland stakeholders, such as politicians business representatives and other members of civic society full involvement in the process, to ensure the application of the protocol is more transparent.
On agri-foods, the Commission proposed a reduction of 80 percent of identity checks on lorries arriving at ports and the more intensive physical inspections of their contents.
On medicines, all GB approved generic drugs will be able to reach Northern Ireland unchecked.
Such medicines will also be able to reach the Irish Republic, Malta and Cyprus.
Under the original protocol, this supply chain would have been severely disrupted when an ongoing grace period lapses, as Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK are in different regulatory zones for pharmaceuticals.
On customs, products deemed “not at risk” will not be subject to customs duties.
The number of businesses and products covered by trusted trader arrangements will be expanded, leaving fewer products under the “at-risk” category.
Another practical consequence will mean companies dealing in NI-destined products will only need to submit basic customs information, such as a copy of an invoice, rather than comprehensive EU customs code data sets that would otherwise have been required.
The EU says the combination of the SPS and customs proposals will effectively create an “express lane” to help facilitate the movements of GB goods whose end destination is Northern Ireland.
Mr Sefcovic has said EU proposals to change the Northern Ireland Protocol are a “direct and genuine” response to concerns raised.
He said: “We have listened to, engaged with and heard Northern Irish stakeholders, from political leaders to businesses and a cross-section of civic society.
“Our proposed solutions are a direct and genuine response to concerns they had raised.”
The EU Commissioner said the EU was proposing an “alternative model” for the protocol.
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He said: “We have put a lot of hard work into this package. We have explored every possible angle of the protocol and, at times, went beyond current EU law.
“In effect, we are proposing an alternative model for implementation of the protocol.
“One the one hand the flow of goods between Great Britain and Northern Ireland will be facilitated for goods that are to stay in Northern Ireland.
“On the other, robust safeguards and monitoring mechanisms should be put in place to make sure that they stay in Northern Ireland.”
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