Following a virtual meeting of the Joint Committee on Wednesday, the UK and EU reaffirmed their commitment to the Good Friday Agreement and the full implementation of the Northern Ireland Protocol. But there have still not been any significant changes to the Protocol, and there has so far been no commitment from Brussels to extend the current grace periods which provide several derogations from EU food safety rules for goods moving from Britain to Northern Ireland.
The first grace period ends in just over four weeks time on April 1, after which all food products of animal origin entering Northern Ireland from Britain would need costly documentation to be completed, particularly export health certificates.
But the UK is reported to be looking to develop a plan whereby British supermarkets and outlets in Northern Ireland would be able to enhance their own surveillance and traceability systems, RTE News reported.
British officials believe they could do this to such a level the European Commission could be happy that they could estimate traceability requirements from the bloc and remove any need to export health certificates to be completed.
London is hoping if Brussels agreed to extensions of the grace periods then that would give the UK enough time to develop such a system.
EU sources told RTE News the European Commission has not ruled out an extension to grace periods, but they and member states insist no such extensions can be introduced until the UK implements an agreement reached between Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove and Commission vice president Maros Sefcovic and their teams last December.
Mr Sefcovic has continued to be unhappy with the UK and has warned there are a number of areas where they have not implemented obligations under that agreement.
These include failing to give Brussels officials working at Northern ports real-time access to the UK’s customs database, as well as not providing enough detail on identity checks of food consignments entering Northern Ireland from Britain.
Following the virtual meeting on Wednesday, Northern Ireland’s First Minister Arlene Foster launched a scathing attack against the EU for its stance oN the matter.
She said: “It is clear Maros Sefcovic and his team is not serious.
“With a stubborn and inflexible response from Brussels it is now a matter for the Government to step up and protect the United Kingdom internal market.”
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