Brexit has 'forced issue' of Irish unification says expert
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Authorities in the area handled 20 percent of all shipments that require agri-food checks and controls, according to officials on the ground. The statistic is now being used by Downing Street to highlight the disruption caused by the EU-ordered red tape. And the number of checks is only expected to increase once a series of exemptions from the rules, including the EU’s ban on British sausages being sold in the region, expire this autumn.
Northern Ireland’s chief vet Dr Robert Huey has previously outlined fears that the end of the grace periods could usher in a 20-fold increase in red tape.
Brexit Minister Lord Frost has called on Brussels to agree to a “standstill” period to give the UK and EU both sides to negotiate a new solution to avoid any disruption.
Earlier this year, Dr Huey claimed his officials are carrying out 325 checks on paperwork related to products of animal origin each day.
In comparison, just 125 are being carried out at the Port of Rotterdam, Europe’s largest seaport and the largest outside of Asia.
Northern Ireland is currently carrying out more checks on agri-food products than France, despite having a population of just 1.8 million people.
As a result of the disruption, No10 has urged Brussels to consider plans to eliminate the majority of checks being carried out on goods being shipped across the Irish Sea.
The Withdrawal Agreement’s Protocol was negotiated because of the region’s land border with the Republic of Ireland in the EU.
To keep the frontier open, Northern Ireland remains in the bloc’s single market, with controls on products shipped from the rest of the UK
Lord Frost has warned the measures are having a particularly chilling effect on trade, and could cause future food shortages and disorder.
Unionist communities say the rules are driving a wedge between them and the rest of the UK.
The Government has proposed rewriting its legal text in order to scrap the majority of EU-ordered checks and the European Court of Justice’s influence over the measures.
But rewriting the legal text has been widely rejected by EU figures, who are keen to find flexibilities and solutions in the original protocol.
In a bid to help alleviate the issues, Brussels offered a package of concessions – including rewriting the EU’s own rules to protect medicines supplies to the region.
But these were roundly rejected by Downing Street, with officials saying the proposals don’t go far enough to answer their concerns.
But No10 has praised the EU for pausing legal action against Britain to defuse tensions over trade checks.
The European Commission said the decision not to escalate infringement proceedings was to create the “necessary space” to consider the proposals on how to avoid a hard border.
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A European Commission spokeswoman said: “The Commission will carefully assess the new proposals made by the UK, in accordance with the necessary consultation procedures, both internally and with the European Parliament.
“In order to provide the necessary space to reflect on these issues and find durable solutions to the implementation of the protocol, we have decided at this stage not to move to the next stage of the infringement procedure, started in March.”
Eurocrats had accused the UK of breaching international law by temporarily suspending EU-ordered checks between mainland Britain and Northern Ireland.
Ministers argued the delay in enforcing the red tape was to protect supermarket supplies and trade.
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Whitehall officials said they have received a “constructive reply” from the Commission in response to the request for a standstill.
A Government spokeswoman added: “We look forward to engaging in talks with the EU in the weeks ahead. Significant changes are needed to ensure the protocol is sustainable for the future.”
Discussions are expected to continue over the summer as a series of deadlines loom – such as an EU ban on the sale of British sausages in Northern Ireland.
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