The EU has unveiled a series of proposals that would slash the red tape burden on Irish Sea trade created by Brexit’s Northern Ireland Protocol.
The European Commission measures would see an 80% reduction in checks envisaged for retail agri-food products arriving in the region from Great Britain.
Announcing the proposals on Wednesday night, European Commission vice president Maros Sefcovic said the EU had “turned our rules upside down and inside out” to find a solution to the NI protocol issues.
It comes after Dominic Cummings has claimed that Downing Street always intended to “ditch” the parts of the Brexit deal and that Boris didn’t actually understand what the agreement meant.
The former chief adviser to the Prime Minister claimed Boris Johnson “never had a scoobydoo” on the implications of the deal as the government urges Brussels to revise the Northern Ireland Protocol.
Mr Cummings’ comments – which came as the EU pledged “very far-reaching” proposals to fix the situation – were described as “very alarming” by Ireland’s deputy premier, Leo Varadkar, who warned political leaders not to enter any agreements with the UK Government until they are “confident that they keep their promises”.
EU to announce new Northern Ireland protocol plan
Brussels will announce a new approach to the Northern Ireland protocol today in a bid to break the Brexit deadlock.
Britain has been chafing at the provisions of the protocol, which it agreed to, and has threatened to unilaterally suspend its adherence to the deal which it now describes as too restrictive.
Maros Sefcovic, the European Commission vice-president, has pledged “very far-reaching” changes and reports suggest he will offer to slash checks on goods by half.
Weeks of negotiations are expected as officials thrash out a new deal.
Mr Sefcovic has also pledged to offer more of a chance for politicians and civic society in Northern Ireland to weigh in on how the contentious trading arrangements operate.
While these changes may help reduce everyday friction on trade between Great Britain and Northern Ireland, they are unlikely to satisfy a UK government demand that the European Court of Justice’s (ECJ oversight function in relation to the protocol be removed.
Under the terms of the deal struck by the UK and EU in 2019, the ECJ would be the final arbitrator in any future trade dispute between the two parties on the operation of the protocol.
The UK now wants to drop that provision and replace it with an independent arbitration process. Mr Sefcovic has insisted that the EU will not budge on the ECJ issue.
He has pointed out that Northern Ireland would be unable to retain single market access – a key provision of the protocol – if the arrangement was not subject to oversight by European judges.
Additional reporting by PA Media
Lord Frost risks inflaming tensions as he calls on EU to revise Brexit agreement
The UK government is on course for a diplomatic collision with Brussels as Brexit minister Lord Frost warned it would be a “historic misjudgement” for the bloc not to rewrite key parts of the agreement, write Jon Stone and Ashley Cowburn.
Accusing the EU of being “disrespectful” to Britain, Lord Frost demanded leaders effectively tear up the Northern Ireland protocol he negotiated alongside Boris Johnson just two years ago and replace it with a new treaty.
Delivering a speech in Lisbon, he risked inflaming tensions, claiming the bloc was attempting to “encourage UK political forces to reverse the referendum result or least keep us closely aligned with the EU”.
UK pledges to ‘engage fully’ with new EU plan
Britain will “engage fully constructively” with the EU proposals on the Northern Ireland protocol, Oliver Dowden has said.
Asked if the EU proposals were enough, the co-chair of the Conservative Party told Sky News: “Well clearly we’ll wait to receive the full announcement from the EU and I know that Lord Frost, as he said yesterday, and the government as a whole will engage fully, constructively with these proposals.
“It is though important that there is fundamental change to the Northern Ireland protocol so we’ll be looking to see that, but let’s see exactly what the EU comes up with.”
Sketch: David Frost cocked it all up, explained David Frost – but don’t worry, David Frost is here to sort it out
The day when its handling of the coronavirus pandemic was described as “one of the most important public health failures the UK has ever experienced” was certainly a good day to let it quietly but certainly be known that the government had done just as bad a job with regard to Brexit. In that sense, Lord David Frost did not disappoint, writes Tom Peck.
Lord Frost – who is still described as the government’s chief Brexit negotiator because almost two full years after Brexit he is still negotiating it, and mainly with himself – flew to Lisbon on Tuesday to stand in front of some curtains, and, in front of fully 275 online viewers, gave himself an absolute kicking.
Full story: EU to unveil proposals aimed at resolving political stand-off over Northern Ireland agreement
The European Union will today outline proposals aimed at resolving the political stand-off over the Brexit agreement, with an offer to significantly reduce border checks on British goods entering Northern Ireland.
It comes after Brexit minister Lord Frost dialled up the government’s hardline rhetoric over the contentious issue in a speech on Tuesday, warning the bloc it would be a “historic misjudgement” not to rewrite the deal, writes Ashley Cowburn.
But the minister was accused of stoking tensions by accusing the EU of being “disrespectful” and attempting to reverse the referendum result, as he set out his stall and effectively demanded the Northern Ireland Protocol he signed is ripped up.
EU to ‘go the extra mile’ on Northern Ireland protocol
Brussels will “go the extra mile” to settle the Northern Ireland protocol dispute, according to a French former Europe minister.
Nathalie Loiseau, an MEP, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “I’m comfortable with the fact that the Commission is looking to go the extra mile, and fix the problems and try to find a solution within the protocol.
“I think pragmatism and good will is really on the EU’s side and I sincerely hope that the [British] posturing of denying the benefits of the protocol [ends], because there are many benefits of the protocol.”
She added: “What can we think of David Frost negotiating the protocol, signing the protocol and pushing hard for the British parliament to ratify the protocol if now he says that he doesn’t agree with the protocol? That’s a big problem.”
It was “not accurate” for Lord Frost to claim the protocol was negotiated in haste and needed to be revised, she added, saying “there was another offer on the table when Theresa May was prime minister which was called the British backstop”, which had taken months to put together.
Meanwhile, Oliver Dowden has said the European Court of Justice’s oversight of trade disputes around Northern Ireland was a major problem for the UK.
The Tory chair told Sky News: “There are many, many international treaties that have independent courts and arbitration mechanisms for them that don’t belong to one party or the other and I think it’s appropriate that we should engage with the EU to see how we can resolve that.”
However, Brussels has said it will not budge on that aspect of the Brexit deal.
Additional reporting by PA Media
Brexit deal ‘half-baked’, says Miliband
Ed Miliband has criticised the government’s Brexit deal as being “half-baked”, ahead of fresh negotiations on the Northern Ireland protocol.
Drawing on Boris Johnson’s claim his deal was “oven-ready” at the time of signing, the former Labour leader told Sky News: “I hope there’s compromise on both sides. I think people will be scratching their heads because this was an agreement signed by Boris Johnson, he said it was a fantastic triumph, it was all going to be fine – and now they want to rip up their own protocol.
“I actually think there’s a case for a wider EU-UK veterinary agreement because that would then make the goods situation in Northern Ireland much easier, it would agree common standards.”
Asked if he though the deal was “oven-ready”, he said: “It was half-baked.”
Trade negotiations between UK and Italy
Britain and Italy have begun discussions on a new investment and export deal. Italy is the world’s eighth-largest economy and trade between Rome and London was worth £38bn last year.
It will seek to help firms in both nations boost their exports particularly in the life sciences, defence and security sectors, as well as technology.
It is hoped the deal will also encourage investment both ways in low-carbon industries like wind power and carbon capture, as well as the food and drink sector. The UK’s and Italy’s export credit bodies will also collaborate to promote growth among smaller firms.
The UK and Italy have started discussions on a new export and investment partnership aimed at boosting trade between the two countries, the International Trade Secretary announced.
Anne-Marie Trevelyan, the international trade secretary, described the plan to boost bilateral trade as a “win-win”. She added: “Italy is our ninth-largest trading partner, while the UK is Italy’s fifth-largest export market.”
Additional reporting by PA Media
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Energy crisis: Thousands of UK firms will collapse without urgent help, ministers warned
Thousands of UK firms will not survive the winter unless the government urgently expands a support package aimed at tackling soaring energy prices, ministers have been warned.
The Treasury is currently considering a bid from the business secretary, Kwasi Kwarteng, for financial aid to help large firms, with particular focus on energy-intensive industries like chemicals, steel and ceramics.
But smaller businesses and leaders from other sectors say they too need help to cope with unprecedented spike in gas and electricity prices, writes Ben Chapman.