Published: Thu, March 04, 2021
Science | By

New Brexit row after United Kingdom extends exemption to Irish border checks

New Brexit row after United Kingdom extends exemption to Irish border checks

Loyalist paramilitary organizations in Northern Ireland were on Thursday reported to have told London they are temporarily withdrawing support for the 1998 peace agreement, often called the Good Friday Agreement.

Mr Coveney said the timing of the UK's move could not be worse and that the British Government has "changed their approach".

"We don't see the prospect of a return to protest or violence", he told the Northern Ireland Policing Board.

© Thomson Reuters A sign is seen with a message against the Brexit border checks in relation to the Northern Ireland protocol at the harbour in Larne, Northern Ireland February 12, 2021.

But the new checks have unsettled the delicate political balance in Northern Ireland, a part of the United Kingdom where some people identify as British and some as Irish.

A commission statement on behalf of Mr Sefcovic said: 'Following the UK Government's statement today, vice-president Sefcovic has expressed the EU's strong concerns over the UK's unilateral action, as this amounts to a violation of the relevant substantive provisions of the protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland and the good faith obligation under the Withdrawal Agreement.

31 December: End of a 12-month adaptation period for British businesses to implement new European Union regulation on to the flow of medicines to Northern Ireland.

The development came as the UK Government took unilateral action on Wednesday to extend a grace period that has been limiting the volume of red tape associated with moving agri-food goods from GB into Northern Ireland.

Since it left the European Union previous year, Britain's relations with the bloc have soured, with both sides accusing the other of acting in bad faith in relation to part of their trade agreement that covers goods movements to Northern Ireland.

The fate of Northern Ireland was the most bitterly contested issue during Britain's Brexit negotiations, with London ultimately agreeing to leave the British-ruled region aligned with the EU's single market for goods, requiring checks on some items arriving there from elsewhere in the United Kingdom.

Boris Johnson visit to Teesside
Prime Minister Boris Johnson was asked about the protocol issues during a visit to Teesport in Middlesbrough on Thursday

The changes have caused widespread confusion among businesses, with some United Kingdom suppliers refusing to ship goods across the Irish Sea.

The UK government has defended the decision as operationally necessary by saying: "For supermarkets and their suppliers, as part of the operational plan the UK committed to at the UK-EU Joint Committee on February 24, the current Scheme for Temporary Agri-food Movements to Northern Ireland will continue until October 1".

Sir Jeffrey Donaldson, whose party leadership recently met an umbrella group representing the outlawed paramilitary groups, said there was no evidence the groups planned to resist the contentious Northern Ireland Protocol by violent means.

"In addition, further guidance will be provided later this week on parcel movements from Great Britain to Northern Ireland to provide necessary additional time for traders beyond 1 April".

The UK-EU trade deal establishes tariff- and quota-free exchange of goods but sets up veterinary and customs checks and other obstacles to the previously seamless commerce between Britain and the bloc.

"A unilateral announcement is deeply unhelpful to building the relationship of trust and partnership that is central to the implementation of the protocol", he said in a statement. Prior to the Government's move, it had been due to run out at the end of March.

Irish Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney said unilaterally continuing the grace period undermines the UK's commitment to the protocol.

The British decision to act unilaterally was "clearly in breach of the protocol" and the commitments that were made a few weeks ago.

"He and Vice President Sefcovic agreed that both parties would remain in close contact", it said.

"That's form which the British government have demonstrated time and time again".

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