EU Brexit chief says trade friction in Northern Ireland can be sorted but adds the task is 'massive'

Mon 19 Apr 2021
Posted by: Noelle McElhatton
Trade News

EU Brexit chief Maros Sefcovic has said that a solution can be found to the challenges of trade friction in Northern Ireland if both sides negotiate in “good faith”. 

Sefcovic told the FT that it was possible to protect the EU from illicit entry of goods while reducing problems for people and businesses in Northern Ireland.

'Massive task'

However, the European Commission vice president did not play down the size of the “massive, massive task” ahead with talks covering more than 20 topics.

“What we need is the good faith approach and the proper implementation of all the commitments [already] undertaken, so we see the system working, and then we can look at the risks which are associated with different measures being applied,” he said.

Sefcovic added that IT systems could help smooth and speed up checks, as well as calling for the UK to align with the EU’s animal health and food safety standards – something the UK has ruled out.

UK officials have signalled they could negotiate a mutual recognition of veterinary standards agreement similar to the one the EU has with New Zealand.

Paper mountain

Appearing before the Northern Ireland Assembly’s agriculture committee, chief vet Robert Huey said NI is processing more paperwork than any EU member state for animal imports, according to the Belfast Newsletter

Huey said that NI was processing 20% of all CHED-Ps (a form for importing animal products) in the EU, and that he needed another 15 vets to keep up with the scale of the work.

Drugs shortage

Meanwhile, the FT reports that manufacturers of generic drugs are considering cutting their supplies to Northern Ireland due to costly new documentation and licensing requirements. 

Under the Northern Ireland protocol, medicines made in Great Britain will have to be licensed separately for use in the region as well as undergoing separate safety inspections and other checks.

Mark Samuels, chief executive of the British Generic Manufacturers Association, said up to 90% of drugs could be withdrawn if a solution was not found to ease the situation.

The government announced on Friday (16 April) that Lord Frost and Sefcovic held “constructive” talks over the implementation of the NI Protocol, as reported in IOE&IT Daily Bulletin on Friday