Brexit: Expert says NI protocol feud may lead to meat shortages
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The Brexit minister will welcome the European Commission Vice President Maroš Šefčovič in London for face-to-face talks amid a breakdown in trust between the two sides. Frictions over the implementation of Brexit have strained relations between London and Brussels with both sides accusing the other of failing to live up to its commitments.
Problems caused by the Northern Ireland Protocol since the start of the year will dominate the talks with Lord Frost calling on the EU to find “common sense solutions”.
Bureaucratic paperwork is required on goods entering the province from Britain, causing problems for local businesses and angering Unionists.
Ministers have said the Protocol is “unsustainable” in its current form and vowed to scrap the current measures.
Lord Frost said ahead of the meeting: “When I meet Maroš Šefčovič later today my message will be clear: time is short and practical solutions are needed now to make the Protocol work.
“Our overriding shared priority must be to protect the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement and the peace process.
“I look to the EU to show flexibility and engage with our proposals so that we can find solutions that enjoy the confidence of all communities.”
The two sides will hold a summit at Admiralty House in the first official meeting of the body set up to oversee post-Brexit relations.
Earlier this year the UK unilaterally extended the grace periods on the introduction of some of the red tape required under the Protocol.
Ministers said the measures were temporary and had been put in place to protect the integrity of the UK’s internal market.
But the EU launched legal proceedings against Britain in response, accusing the Government of breaking the terms of the withdrawal agreement.
Mr Šefčovič warned the EU would act “swiftly, firmly and resolutely” if the UK tried to impose further delays on checks on goods crossing the Irish Sea.
Criticising Brussels’ repeated threats, Lord Frost has vowed to tell his EU counterpart to focus his energies on finding a solution to the problems caused by the Protocol.
The minister said: “Further threats of legal action and trade retaliation from the EU won’t make life any easier for the shopper in Strabane who can’t buy their favourite product. Nor will it benefit the small business in Ballymena struggling to source produce from their supplier in Birmingham.
“What is needed is pragmatism and common sense solutions to resolve the issues as they are before us.
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“This work is important. And it is ever more urgent.
“It is only by making substantial progress across the whole range of difficulties that we can show people in Northern Ireland that the Protocol can work in a pragmatic, proportionate and sustainable way – as was always intended.”
Officials are not expecting a breakthrough in talks at the meeting of the joint committee but hope it will open up new avenues for discussions.
The UK has accused the European Commission of being slow to engage in talks about finding a solution.
Sources say more than 10 papers proposing potential ways of easing problems have been submitted to Brussels but eurocrats are yet to formally respond.
On the eve of the call Boris Johnson spoke to European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen on the phone to express his own concerns at the EU’s intransigence on the Protocol.
Ireland is also pushing for both the UK and EU to find a resolution to the frictions caused by the Protocol to help rebuild relations.
Irish Taoiseach Micheal Martin said ahead of the meeting: “It’s important that we do resolve these issues and that trust is built up between the European Union and the United Kingdom.
“It’s very important that our trust is built up, because otherwise we will have continuing issues and problems.”
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