Countryfile: Tom explains ‘worry’ of Northern Ireland protocol
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EU Commission Vice President Maros Sefcovic has suggested the number of checks taking place on goods crossing from the mainland to Northern Ireland could be reduced to just a few lorries a day. He made the offer in the hope of ending the frictions between the UK and the bloc now that Liz Truss was Prime Minister.
Mr Sefcovic said under his proposals the trade border that has effectively been imposed down the Irish Sea would be “invisible”.
Checks could be abandoned on almost all vehicles crossing the Irish Sea if the UK gives EU officials real-time data on trade movements.
The senior eurocrat added there was very little difference between what Westminster was demanding and what the EU was now offering.
Physical checks would only be made when there is reasonable suspicion of illegal trade smuggling, illegal drugs, dangerous toys or poisoned food, he vowed.
“If the data are downloaded into the system, when the goods are put on the ferry from Britain… I believe that we can remotely process them while sailing to Northern Ireland,” Mr Sefcovic told the Financial Times.
“It could be resolved very, very quickly if we get the input from our UK counterparts.”
It is understood the UK already has close to real time tracking systems ready to go.
While the EU’s proposal falls short of the UK’s demands to remove the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice as the ultimate arbitrator on disputes, it may provide the breakthrough needed for a deal to be done.
Talks between the UK and Brussels first began in October last year but broke down after neither side was willing to compromise on its red lines.
Britain has insisted that the Protocol must be renegotiated entirely rather than just tinkering with its implementation.
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Meanwhile the EU has said that the only way to resolve the dispute is to implement to international agreement in full.
Last week Ms Truss said that her “preference is for a negotiated solution” with the EU over the Northern Ireland Protocol.
Warning a fix to the trade barriers was urgently needed, she added: “What we cannot allow is for this situation to drift.”
When she was Foreign Secretary, Ms Truss drew up legislation to unilaterally overrule aspects of the Protocol.
The Prime Minister has vowed to continue taking the Bill through Parliament if there is no breakthrough in talks with the EU.
Mr Sefcovic said he was “encouraged” by Prime Minister’s statement expressing a desire for a negotiated outcome.
He said: “We stand ready to work in an open and constructive and intensive way.”
Agreeing on the need for a quick solution, he continued: “I also would prefer to work around the tight deadlines.”
Mr Sefcovic highlighted that 2023 would make 25 years since the Good Friday Belfast Agreement was signed and that a solution should be in place by then.
He said: “If the first 25 years were about peace, I think that the next 25 years should be about peace and prosperity for Northern Ireland.”
Talks are unlikely to restart until after the UK ends its period of mourning for the death of the Queen.
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