Brexit grace period extension discussed by Leo Varadkar
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On Monday, the UK’s Brexit minister said Britain plans to extend post-Brexit grace periods on some goods imports to Northern Ireland in a move to provide London and Brussels with more time to find a long-term resolution on trade with the province. A trade deal between the two sides came into force on December 31, 2020, and saw the Britain agree to leave some EU rules in place in Northern Ireland and accept checks on goods arriving there from elsewhere in the UK. But a bitter war of words has broken out, particularly around the implementation of the Northern Ireland Protocol – the UK insists the arrangement isn’t viable and wants it changed, while the EU is rejecting any hope of the treaty being renegotiated.
Lord Frost said the UK would be extending the current grace periods to “provide space for potential further discussions” with the EU over possible reforms to the Protocol.
But fears are increasing in Ireland, with a senior Government official noting the statement from Lord Frost made no mention of a delay from the British to its own scrutiny of EU imports.
The official told Politico: “It’s our clear understanding that the British intend to delay introduction of some or all checks originally planned to go live at U.K. ports on October 1.
“This could be seen as a quid pro quo for their failure to introduce new measures on GB trade to Northern Ireland by that date.
“We expect to hear something along these lines, officially, in the coming week.”
Britain is crucial to Ireland as it is its top agri-food export market, and trade will almost definitely be impacted once the UK’s port controls on EU imports kick into gear.
The Irish official added: “The reality is that any delay to the introduction of full border regulations on exports to Britain will be overwhelmingly welcomed by businesses here because Britain is such a fundamentally important market for Ireland.”
Earlier in the day, Ireland’s deputy Prime Minister Leo Varadkar had said following talks with UK Cabinet minister Michael Gove, he expects the UK to delay its own imposition of trade barriers on EU imports to Britain as part of its extension to the grace periods.
But a UK Government official hit back: “Our position hasn’t changed on that,” adding they didn’t understand Mr Varadkar “making that link, they’re not really related issues at all”.
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