The UK has unilaterally decided to extend the grace period on border checks for goods entering Northern Ireland from Great Britain.
It informed Brussels of the decision last night, as part of a formal response to seven lawsuits the EU brought against the UK earlier in the summer.
For now, while the EU will see this as an escalation of the row, it is unlikely to take further action.
An EU spokesman, Daniel Ferrie, told reporters last night that, “We have received a reply from the UK. We will now analyze the reply before deciding on the next steps.”
According to the Guardian, the UK has also requested a full specialised committee on EU programmes, the official forum for Brexit implementation issues. It wants it to happen as soon as next week to discuss the ongoing exclusion of Britain from the flagship Horizon Europe science funds.
What the extension of the grace period on border checks indicates about the exact thinking of the Liz Truss government is harder to determine. It could, suggests the Guardian, either indicate plans to trigger Article 16 or presage a move to re-open talks.
Period of mourning
The government is not currently making statements on this, or any other issue, as political business is suspended during the 10-day mourning period for the Queen.
Sky News reports that while Liz Truss has promised to push on with passing the Northern Ireland Protocol Bill and the EU is continuing to pursue its lawsuits against the UK, there is widespread feeling that both sides are pursuing a twin-track approach and that there remains scope for a new deal that works for all parties.
Liz Truss is due to meet US President Joe Biden twice in the next week, first in London at the Queen’s funeral and then in a formal bilateral meeting in the US.
Biden has spoken previously of the significance of maintaining peace in Northern Ireland and of not undermining the Good Friday Agreement.