Brussels mulls short extension to NI grace period for traders but rejects UK call for two years

Tue 9 Feb 2021
Posted by: William Barns-Graham
Trade News

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The EU will reject the UK’s call for a two-year extension to existing grace periods for traders moving goods between Great Britain and Northern Ireland, government sources have told the national media.

The reports come ahead of cabinet office minister Michael Gove’s meeting with EU vice-president Maros Sefcovic in London on Thursday to discuss potential solutions to the trade friction caused by the Northern Ireland Protocol.

Two-year push

Under the NI Protocol, firms sending products of animal origin to Northern Ireland will be legally required to complete Export Health Certificates (EHC), which need to be signed off by an official veterinarian.

However, the implementation of this new requirement was delayed until 1 April 2021 to give time to firms – including major supermarkets – to prepare.

Customs declarations for small parcels entering Northern Ireland will also only be required from April.

The UK has pushed for an extension to these grace period of up to two years but Whitehall and EU sources have told the Telegraph that only a further three or six months will be on offer.

Pragmatic

Gove wrote to the EU last week demanding significant changes to the Protocol after reports of delays and disruption caused by the new rules.

Tensions in Northern Ireland further increased when border checks were suspended after an upsurge in ‘sinister behaviour’ towards port staff.

Gove has since called on Brussels to be “pragmatic”, claiming the Protocol is “not working at the moment”, the FT reports

Pandora’s box

Gove has also said that the EU “opened Pandora’s box” when triggering Article 16 over the recent Covid-19 vaccine dispute, Politico reports

Following a diplomatic outcry from the UK and Ireland, the EU rapidly backtracked on its decision to invoke emergency measures under the Protocol to prevent the movement of vaccines into the UK.

It has since downplayed the Article 16 incident with some in the EU accusing the UK of exploiting the episode, according to the Telegraph.