UK gears up to collide with EU over plan to redefine Brexit deal

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The UK will put itself on a collision course with Brussels on Wednesday as it unveils a new set of demands that would drastically revise post-Brexit trade deals between Britain and Northern Ireland.

In a move that officials have called a “global shift in approach”, Cabinet Minister Lord David Frost will outline a strategy to remove most of the Irish Sea trade border controls that have come into effect in January.

And in a warning that Britain could suspend the Northern Ireland protocol in its Brexit deal with the EU if the bloc does not give in, Frost will claim the UK already has the right to activate the waiver clause of article 16 of the agreement.

Boris Johnson on Tuesday discussed UK strategy with Micheál Martin, his Irish counterpart – including proposals that would transform how the protocol works today.

“Johnson has said that all products made in Britain should be able to enter Northern Ireland unchecked,” an EU official said.

The UK’s new stance is likely to exasperate Brussels. Under the Northern Ireland Protocol agreed by Johnson in 2019 to avoid the return of a hard border to the island of Ireland, all goods shipped from Britain to the region must follow EU rules for customs and agrifood products.

Frost called the arrangements “unsustainable,” telling MPs this week there was a need to “significantly reduce or remove the barriers” created by the protocol, which he said was deterring many UK-based companies from trade with Northern Ireland.

David Frost’s proposals would appear to directly contradict the EU’s insistence that the bloc would not “destroy the heart of the [Northern Ireland] protocol ‘© John Sibley / Reuters

The Irish Sea border angered conservative Brexiters and pro-British Unionist politicians in Northern Ireland, who described it as an affront to UK sovereignty as it leaves the region in orbit regulation of a foreign power.

Frost’s proposals are expected to include an ‘honesty box’ approach, where businesses that have declared their goods to be only for sale and use in Northern Ireland should be exempted from border controls at the border. Irish Sea.

Britain also wants Brussels to agree to a two-standard regime that would allow goods that comply with UK rules to move freely in Northern Ireland alongside EU-compliant products, provided they are labeled as intended only. to be used in the area, according to people. with knowledge of the proposals.

Another part of the proposals should seek to eliminate any role of the European Commission or the European Court of Justice in the functioning of the Northern Ireland Protocol.

The UK should also argue that the threshold to trigger the Protocol’s Article 16 waiver mechanism has already been met due to the trade impact.

The government will not act immediately by triggering the mechanism, but reserves the right to do so, people familiar with the proposals said.

Frost’s proposals would appear to directly contradict the EU’s insistence on the UK that the bloc would not “destroy the heart of the [Northern Ireland] protocol”.

Johnson told Martin on Tuesday that “the way the protocol works is causing considerable disruption to the people of Northern Ireland.”

Downing Street said after the call between the two leaders that the UK would protect the Good Friday deal “in all its dimensions” – a reference to the need to obtain the consent of the Unionist and Nationalist communities.

The British Prime Minister “said the EU had to be pragmatic and that solutions had to be found to tackle the serious challenges that arose with the protocol,” Downing Street added.

Frost will brief the British parliament on Wednesday on Britain’s new strategy towards the protocol and met with Maros Sefcovic, deputy chairman of the committee responsible for EU relations with Britain, on Tuesday.

“We look forward to seeing a constructive and consensual approach to resolving the outstanding issues with the Pace Protocol, but it is clear to all that a fundamental change of approach is needed to do this,” a UK official said. .

Frost’s document will set the stage for another round of heavily loaded talks with the EU ahead of a new round of trade deal deadlines in late September.

At this point, the so-called grace periods – temporary waivers of red tape to facilitate trade between Britain and Northern Ireland – will expire for a number of products, including chilled meats.

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