EU to unveil proposals aimed at resolving Northern Ireland Protocol row

In the political stalemate surrounding the Northern Ireland Protocol on Brexit, the EU will come up with a number of proposals to find a solution to the ongoing problem.

European Commission Vice-President Maros Sefcovic has promised that the measures will be “very far-reaching” and will address issues related to the transport of agri-food and pharmaceuticals across the Irish Sea.

The telegraph reports that the EU will offer to abolish up to 50% of customs controls on UK goods entering Northern Ireland and that more than half of controls on meat and plants entering Northern Ireland will be removed.

An EU official told the Telegraph: “Brussels will, in return for having more data for proper market surveillance, allow more goods to enter Northern Ireland without controls.

“The number of controls will decrease massively. This is the best way to dismantle controls, apart from a Swiss-style alignment agreement. “

Mr Sefcovic has also pledged to give Northern Ireland politicians and civil society a greater say in how the controversial trade agreements work.

While the measures can potentially help ease the day-to-day friction of trade between the UK and Northern Ireland, they are unlikely to do justice to the UK government’s call for the role of the European Court of Justice (ECJ).

On Tuesday, British Brexit negotiator Lord Frost made it clear that the removal of the ECJ’s oversight function on the protocol was a red line for the government.

Under the terms of the UK-EU agreement in 2019, the ECJ would be the final arbiter in any future trade dispute between the two parties over the application of the protocol.

The United Kingdom now wants to delete this provision and replace it with independent arbitration.

Mr Sefcovic has insisted that the EU will not move on on the ECJ question.

He pointed out that Northern Ireland would not be able to maintain access to the single market – an important provision of the Protocol – if the agreement were not subject to oversight by European judges.

The EU proposals, along with a wish list of reforms outlined by the government in July, are expected to form the basis for a new round of negotiations between Brussels and London in the coming weeks.

The protocol was agreed by the UK and the EU to get around the biggest obstacle in the Brexit divorce talks – the Irish land border.

This has been achieved by moving regulatory and customs controls and processes to the Irish Sea.

The agreements have created new economic barriers to the movement of goods from the UK to Northern Ireland.

This has disrupted many companies in Northern Ireland and has also created a major political headache for the government as trade unionists are angry about what they see as weakening the Union.

However, other companies have benefited from the terms of the protocol, which gives Northern Irish traders unique unrestricted access to sell in the UK and EU internal markets.

The EU could see a way of reducing the bureaucratic burden of moving agricultural and food products between the UK and NI as sanctioning a system that only controls consignments that are at risk of being moved to the Republic of Ireland .

Under such a system, a trusted trading system could allow retailers to indicate that the final destination for goods dispatched from the UK is Northern Ireland.

Mr Sefcovic has already signaled that the EU is ready to change legislation to ensure that medical care to Northern Ireland is not interrupted.

According to the original provisions of the protocol, the region should be included in the EU regulatory area for pharmaceuticals from 2022 – a move that would have restricted the ability to import products from the UK.

However, Mr Sefcovic has indicated that no movement is expected in relation to the ECJ’s oversight of the minutes when he outlines the proposals later on Wednesday.

Speaking at a virtual event in Dublin last week, he said: “When we talk about constructive solutions to the practical problems, I think the abolition of the European Court of Justice is not one of them.”

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