PM backs 'sensible' grace periods in Northern Ireland but industry warns Lord Frost to dial it down

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

brexit

Boris Johnson has described the UK’s decision to unilaterally extend grace periods on new customs requirements for businesses in Northern Ireland as “sensible” and only “temporary”.

The Prime Minister’s comments come amid escalating tension between the UK and EU over the implementation of the Northern Ireland Protocol.

Threats

The EU has threatened legal action over the UK’s decision to postpone until October the introduction of checks on the trade of animal products and plants involving supermarkets, as well as the requirement for declarations to be completed for parcels.

New checks were due to kick in on 1 April.

‘Teething problems’

Johnson admitted there had been “teething problems” in the application of new rules for trade between Great Britain and Northern Ireland that came into force at the start of this year, according to the Belfast Telegraph.

“We’re fixing those now with some temporary, technical things that we’re doing to smooth the flow which, I think, are very, very sensible,” he told a Downing Street press conference.

De-Frost

Business leaders and exporters have called on Lord Frost to take a less abrasive approach to negotiations with the EU, the FT reports

The minister for relations called on the EU to “shake off any remaining ill will” over the UK’s decision to leave the EU in an article written for the Sunday Telegraph.

Consensus needed

Trade groups have warned that a failure to build consensus between the UK and EU will damage business further.

James Withers, chief executive of Scotland Food and Drink, said: “We face a relationship choice: collaboration or disintegration. We need the diplomatic temperature to be dialled down.” 

Madman strategy won’t work

Shane Brennan, the chief executive of the Cold Chain Federation, said Frost’s “madman strategy” was “terrible for food supply chains”.

The next few “months are make-or-break for the food industry,” he added.

‘We never sulk’

The European Commission chief spokesman Eric Mamer refuted Frost’ claim of EU ill will.

He told Politico: “We don’t have moods. We are an institution. So, we try to work on a day-to-day basis with a very, very even temper”.