Tánaiste Leo Varadkar meeting with British Cabinet member Michael Gove today Leo Varadkar via Twitter

UK announces further extensions on post-Brexit grace periods

The European Commission said it “will not agree to a renegotiation of the Protocol”.

LAST UPDATE | Sep 6th 2021, 7:13 PM

THE UK GOVERNMENT has announced it will extend the grace periods for allowing a range of products, including sausages, to continue being shipped across the Irish Sea.

In a written statement to Parliament today, Brexit minister David Frost said the move would “provide space for potential further discussions” with the European Union over possibly reforms to the Northern Ireland Protocol.

“The Government proposed to the EU on 23 July a ‘standstill’ arrangement to maintain the operation of the protocol on the current basis, and to pause current legal actions, to provide space for discussions on those proposals,” said Frost, who negotiated Britain’s divorce from Brussels.

He added: “Following on from this, to provide space for potential further discussions, and to give certainty and stability to businesses while any such discussions proceed, the Government will continue to operate the protocol on the current basis.

“This includes the grace periods and easements currently in force. Operational and other guidance will be updated to reflect this approach.

“We will ensure that reasonable notice is provided in the event that these arrangements were to change, to enable businesses and citizens to prepare.”

Earlier today, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar told RTÉ News he believes the business community, in Northern Ireland and the Republic, will welcome any extension.

However, he added: “However, it’s important that we use the period of any extension that may occur really to get down to business to try to put in place more permanent arrangements to make sure the protocol is made more workable.” 

Varadkar was speaking after he met with British Cabinet member Michael Gove today during his first in-person Irish trade mission to the UK since before the Covid-19 pandemic began. 

Varadkar said he got a sense of “reassurance” from Gove that “the UK government doesn’t want to walk away from the protocol, but does want to make it more workable, particularly for businesses in Northern Ireland”. 

EU rules prevent chilled meat products being imported into the single market and the terms of Northern Ireland’s post-Brexit arrangements mean following Brussels’ regulations.

Sausage shipments could have been halted when the current extension to the grace period expires at the end of September.

The Northern Ireland Protocol effectively keeps Northern Ireland in the EU’s single market for goods, avoiding a hard border with Ireland at the extent of additional bureaucratic barriers for goods crossing from Great Britain.

In a statement following the UK’s announcement today, the European Commission said it “will not agree to a renegotiation of the Protocol”. 

“Our focus remains on identifying long-term, flexible and practical solutions to address issues related to the practical solutions to address issues related to the practical implementation of the Protocol that citizens and businesses in Northern Ireland,” the Commission said. 

“However, we will not agree to a renegotiation of the Protocol. The Commission continues to engage constructively with the UK, in the interest of all communities in Northern Ireland,” it said. 

With reporting by ress Association

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