LONDON / DUBLIN, September 6 (Reuters) – The UK plans to further extend post-Brexit grace periods on certain imports of goods into Northern Ireland, Brexit Minister David Frost said on Monday with the aim of give London and Brussels more time to discuss trade with the province.
The fate of British-ruled Northern Ireland was the most contentious issue in Britain’s exit negotiations, which concluded on December 31, and it has continued to cause friction.
To avoid imposing a hard border on the island of Ireland, Britain has agreed to leave certain EU rules in place in its province of Northern Ireland and to accept checks on incoming goods. elsewhere in the UK.
London has since said the arrangement is not working and wants it changed, while the EU rejects renegotiating the treaty.
“To provide space for possible further discussions (with the EU) and to give business certainty and stability while such discussions continue, the government will continue to apply the protocol on the current basis,” Frost said. in a written ministerial declaration.
“This includes the grace periods and easements currently in place,” he said.
The European Union has taken note of Britain’s plans, but said it is not pursuing further legal steps against London.
“For the moment, the Commission is not taking the next step in the infringement procedure launched in March 2021 and is not opening any new infringements for the moment,” the bloc’s executive said in a statement.
Officials in London and Brussels have tried to prevent the dispute from escalating into a full-fledged trade war.
The European Commission agreed in July to freeze legal action against Britain for making changes to the protocol which Brussels says violate the Brexit Treaty.
London has now indicated it will extend grace periods, suspending new controls on cross-Channel trade that are expected to come into effect in a few weeks.
Ireland is a key player in post-Brexit trade talks and Irish Deputy Prime Minister Leo Varadkar, speaking after a meeting with UK Cabinet Minister Michael Gove, said he expected that the British decision lead to attempts to reach a more permanent solution.
“The UK is expected to announce a further extension of grace periods, not only for Northern Ireland, but also for imports from the EU and Ireland to the UK. UK, ”Varadkar said in an interview with Irish state broadcaster RTE.
“It is important that we use the period of any extension that might occur to really get down to business and try to put in place more permanent arrangements (…) to ensure that the protocol is made more functional,” Varadkar said. at RTE.
But Varadkar warned that any more permanent solution achieved between London and Brussels would have to be within the bounds of the existing deal.
Varadkar said Gove told him Britain “doesn’t want to stray from the protocol but wants to make it more practical”.
Irish Prime Minister Micheal Martin said last month he believed the problems could be resolved with political goodwill. Read more
Reporting by Conor Humphries in Dublin and James Davey in London, Sabine Siebold in Berlin; Editing by Michael Holden and David Clarke
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