Three weeks of talks ahead on the EU's offer to amend the NI Protocol –but will Britain accept?

Thu 14 Oct 2021
Posted by: Noelle McElhatton
Trade News

UK and European Union officials are meeting in London today and for the next three weeks, following the EU’s “far reaching” and “ambitious” offer to cut 80% of checks on some goods moving from GB to Northern Ireland.

European Commission vice president Maros Sefcovic has published a set of proposals that aims to break the logjam in negotiations over the Northern Ireland Protocol by drastically reducing the number of physical checks on lorries and cutting customs paperwork by 50%.

Sky reports that the EU hope this “dramatic simplification” of the rules will bring Westminster on side, allowing for “a type of express lane that will facilitate the movement of goods”.

Is it enough?

With Brexit minister Lord Frost requesting a fundamental rewrite of the Protocol, the FT breaks down the EU’s offer and examines whether it goes far enough to meet Britain’s demands for change to the protocol.

While new rules could provide faster movement of goods between GB and NI, the “quid pro quo is that the UK builds full border control posts for inspections of goods and provides more comprehensive product data and market surveillance information,” the FT says.

Medicines registered in the UK will be able to circulate freely in NI but other goods will still have to comply with EU standards, falling short of Britain’s demand for a “full dual regulatory regime”. Pets will also still need passports and vaccination certificates to travel to NI.

In Northern Ireland, businesses feel the EU’s proposals have gone beyond expectations, reports the Guardian, quoting the Northern Ireland Retail Consortium and Logistics UK, which said “not a single member has raised the issue” of the ECJ.

Swiss model

The Telegraph reports that the EU appears to have moved significantly, although Lord Frost continues to oppose the role of the European Court of Justice (ECJ) in adjudicating disputes. One possible resolution could be an independent arbitrator, similar to that enjoyed by Switzerland, it says.

At the moment, the stage is set for another Brexit Christmas, claims Politico, as Britain and the EU head back to the negotiating table.

While neither side wants a trade war, “the two remain far apart and somebody’s red lines will need to turn pink to strike a compromise”, it says. 

Euronews reports that Commission experts are to travel to London to begin detailed talks on the proposals. Sefcovic is to meet Lord Frost in Brussels on Friday.