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EU suggests new deal on plant and animal checks in bid to solve Brexit trade issues

The EU and UK are locked in talks to make post-Brexit trade in Northern Ireland work more smoothly.

Image: PA Images

THE EU HAS said that it is willing to consider an agreement with the UK on checks and standards required for plants and animals, and products related to them in an attempt to make post-Brexit checks run more smoothly in Northern Ireland.

This could ease issues with the trade of seed potatoes and potted plants from Great Britain to Northern Ireland, as well as issues with pets travelling from GB to NI. 

In an interview with RTÉ News, vice president of the European Commission Maroš Šefčovič said that he had raised the suggestion with British Cabinet minister Michael Gove yesterday evening.

The EU and the UK were engaged in discussions yesterday over the implementation of the Northern Ireland Protocol.

An agreement from the two sides to agree on sanitary and phytosanitary standards could solve many of the problems that Northern Ireland has faced in trying to trade post-Brexit.

In the first days of post-Brexit checks, products on M&S shelves in Northern Ireland were reduced due to the new system of checks that were needed.

Other problems were raised too: soil couldn’t be imported from Great Britain without significant hassle, meaning plants and even tractors that had mud on their wheels were stopped from being sent across. 

The UK has faced similar issues in trying to import items from the EU: such as a beekeeper who can no longer import baby bees from Italy due to new Brexit bans.

A ‘grace period’ was implemented to waive certain checks required for agrifoods going from GB to NI, as required under the Brexit trade deal between the EU and UK.

The UK has asked the European Commission that this three-month grace period be extended until January 2023, along with extending grace periods in other areas.

As it stands, here is the plan for more Brexit checks that the UK still need to introduce:

  • 1 April: End of a three-month grace period for supermarkets, which will now need health certificates to move agri-food goods from Great Britain to Northern Ireland.
  • 30 June: End of temporary period for the free flow of data from the UK to the EU
  • 1 July: End of a six-month grace period for Great Britain-Northern Ireland trade on chilled and processed meat products, which aren’t permitted to be imported to the EU at all. This will mean GB can’t send a frozen lasagna to Northern Ireland 
  • 31 December: End of a 12-month adaptation period for British businesses to implement new EU regulation on to the flow of medicines to Northern Ireland.

Although a sanitary and phytosanitary agreement would solve a good number of issues Northern Ireland trade has faced post-Brexit, it would not solve them all. It’s possible that businesses and markets will have to adjust to solve them completely.

Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney has suggested previously that he is in favour of a veterinary deal with the UK to solve some of these issues.

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