UK-EU deal break-through: PM scraps bill clauses affecting trade between GB and Northern Ireland

Tue 8 Dec 2020
Posted by: Noelle McElhatton
Trade News

The UK and EU have reached agreement on how post-transition trade rules will be implemented in relation to Northern Ireland.

The agreement in principle was announced in a joint statement by cabinet minister Michael Gove and European Commission Vice-President Maroš Šefčovič.

The UK has agreed the Norther Ireland Protocol and its new trade rules will be fully operational at the end of the transition period, as of 1 January 2021.

As well as a clarification on the application of state aid, of most interest to traders who move goods from Great Britain to Northern Ireland is the agreement on applying SPS (Sanitary & Phytosanitary) checks on animals, animal products and plants as well as export declarations.

Lawful approach

According to the FT, the UK will scrap law-breaking elements of its Internal Market Bill and the upcoming Taxation Bill. These would have seen the UK disapply the Northern Ireland protocol, which critics say would endanger peace in Ireland.

Although the agreement on the NI Protocol is not linked to the ongoing quest for a free trade deal between the EU and UK, it will “improve the atmosphere around those negotiations and build confidence between the two sides,” the FT predicts.

The details of the agreement have not been published but are expected to be rubber stamped in the coming days, reports the BBC. They will apply regardless of whether the two sides can agree a trade deal.

Boris to Brussels

The announcement comes as prime minister Boris Johnson is expected to travel to Brussels tomorrow or Thursday to conduct face-to-face negotiations with European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen.

Negotiating teams led by Michel Barnier for the EU and David Frost for the UK are putting together a dossier outlining the remaining sticking points for the political leaders, who have had several in-depth phone calls in recent days.

Johnson warned that securing a Brexit trade deal in Brussels this week would be “very difficult” but claimed that the “power of sweet reason” could yet get an agreement over the line.