MEPs give cautious welcome to UK proposals for Irish Sea border checks for food products

The border checks, the details of which are contained in a Northern Ireland Protocol roadmap, will be brought in in four stages from October.
nmann77

By Martin Banks

Martin Banks is a senior reporter at the Parliament Magazine

20 May 2021

A Northern Ireland Protocol roadmap says phase one will cover fresh meat products and phase two, at the end of January 2022, will cover dairy products, plants and wine.

Phases three and four would cover fruit and vegetable marketing standards, pet food, organics and composite product.

The Protocol is the part of the Brexit deal, which creates a trade border between Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

In March, the UK delayed introducing some new border processes without EU agreement which led to the EU starting legal proceedings against the UK.

The roadmap document covers more than 20 separate issues including medicines, access to databases, pet travel and the VAT treatment of second-hand cars.

So far, the movement of food products from the UK mainland to Northern Ireland has been the biggest practical challenge of the sea border.

“I welcome that the UK government is engaging in good faith. The EU is committed to find practical solutions for the everyday life of people in Northern Ireland” David McAllister, EPP

Under Brexit, Northern Ireland has remained a part of the EU's single market while the rest of the UK has left, which means food products entering the province from the UK need to be professionally certified and are subject to new checks and controls at ports.

Speaking to this site, Irish Renew Europe MEP Barry Andrews said, “I would give a cautious welcome to the UK proposal. There would appear to be a more constructive approach to implementation of the Protocol on the UK side.”

“The key to all of this is for the Northern Ireland parties to come together to recognise the great potential that a successfully implemented Withdrawal Agreement could have for all communities in Northern Ireland.”

Further reaction came from German EPP member David McAllister, chair of the foreign affairs committee, who also told this site, “The implementation of the Protocol is the only way to preserve stability on the island of Ireland. Both sides need to mutually agree on a path towards full compliance with the Protocol.”

“This includes clear deadlines and milestones. I welcome that the UK government is engaging in good faith. The EU is committed to find practical solutions for everyday life of people in Northern Ireland.”

He added, “At the same time, the integrity of the single market must be safeguarded.”

“I would give a cautious welcome to the UK proposal. There would appear to be a more constructive approach to implementation of the Protocol on the UK side” Barry Andrews, Renew Europe

Further comment came from Gwendoline Delbos-Corfield, the Greens/EFA substitute member of the UK Coordination Group, or UKCG.

She told this website, “This is a step in the right direction, and one that should allow for more certainty for citizens and businesses in Northern Ireland in the long run.”

But she noted, “We still have too little clarity on the timeline for the official certification of certain products. We have the same issue on the already considerably delayed construction of customs facilities. Recently, the Northern Ireland Protocol has been weaponised to score political points.”

“Teething problems were always to be anticipated, however. This is the Brexit the UK government chose and we expect them to stick to their international commitments.”

“It is our hope that this latest progress on the Protocol could mark the beginning of a better relationship between the UK and the EU, one that is based on mutual trust and on the full implementation of the UK's rights and obligations.”

“We still have too little clarity on the timeline for the official certification of certain products. We have the same issue on the already considerably delayed construction of customs facilities. Recently, the Northern Ireland Protocol has been weaponised to score political points”

Gwendoline Delbos-Corfield, Greens/EFA

Polish EPP deputy Danuta Hubner, also speaking to this site, said, “Any action to be undertaken requires consultation. There is a space for political dialogue on all aspects of the implementation of the Protocol on Ireland and Northern Ireland. There is also space for technical dialogue which I am sure can be very helpful in deescalating political tensions.”

The former commissioner said, “We must not forget that the Protocol is the only available, jointly agreed, means to avoid the return of the border while protecting the integrity of the EU single market of 450 million people. Continuation of dialogue in good faith is key.”

“The EU has the right to expect from the UK the implementation of agreed commitments.”

Share this page
Sponsored