Green to go…but EU ‘ignores’ proposed system

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Haulage trucks passed a sign at the Port of Belfast welcoming travelers to the port area.

The bill will propose separate ‘green’ and ‘red’ lanes for goods traveling between Britain and Northern Ireland, with those destined to remain in the UK being freed from EU-level controls.

There will be no crossing between the channels, of course, the goods filtering through one or the other, depending on their intended destination.

The News Letter has learned that a ‘data sharing’ system allowing European customs officials to monitor goods crossing the Irish Sea with their British counterparts has still not been discussed by the EU.

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Foreign Secretary Liz Truss in the House of Commons in London, as she spells out her intention to introduce legislation within weeks scrapping parts of the post-Brexit deal on Northern Ireland. Picture date: Friday December 10, 2021.

The system was developed nine months ago as an alternative to mandatory universal checks on all goods from GB to NI.

However, it is understood that although the system has been made available to the EU, no one from the European Commission has yet reviewed it.

Ms Truss’ legislation is due in the ‘coming weeks’, ahead of the summer parliamentary recess and it had been heavily publicized that it was tabled at Westminster yesterday.

Speaking at Paddington Station in London yesterday, Boris Johnson said the Truss Bill involved the abandonment of ‘relatively minor barriers to trade’.

The Prime Minister added: “We need to resolve the protocol issues. I think there are good pragmatic and common sense solutions. We must work with our friends in the EU to achieve this.

The Foreign Secretary told the House of Commons that the bill will put in place the necessary measures to “relieve the burden of east-west trade and ensure that the people of Northern Ireland can access the same benefits as the people of Great Britain”.

‘The bill will ensure that goods moving and remaining in the UK are freed from unnecessary bureaucracy through our new green channel,’ she said.

“This respects Northern Ireland’s place in the UK, in its customs territory, and protects the UK internal market.

“At the same time, it ensures that goods destined for the EU undergo all checks and controls applied under EU law.”

This will be underpinned by “data sharing arrangements”, she said.

“This will protect both East-West trade and the EU’s single market while removing customs formalities for goods remaining in the UK,” she added.

Ms Truss went on to say that the bill will remove regulatory barriers to goods made to British standards being sold in Northern Ireland, with businesses able to choose between meeting British or EU standards in a new ‘dual regulatory regime’.

The legislation will also give the government the ability to decide tax and spending policies across the UK, she said.

This would relate to issues such as changes to VAT and would allow Northern Ireland to benefit from reductions in VAT rates from which the province has been excluded under EU rules.

Ms Truss added: “It will address governance issues, aligning the protocol with international standards.

“At the same time, it will take further steps to protect the EU’s single market by putting in place tough penalties for those who seek to abuse the new system.”

It is understood that the UK would withdraw the bill if all of its aims and objectives were met by the EU.

The option to invoke Article 16 will remain on the table.

More details should be communicated in the coming weeks. Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney has said he deeply regrets the decision to introduce the legislation which will unilaterally remove elements of the Northern Ireland Protocol.

Mr Coveney said the UK government‘s decision “damaged trust and would only serve to make it more difficult to find solutions to the real concerns of Northern Irish people about the way the protocol is being implemented”.

Maros Sefcovic, vice-president of the European Commission and chief EU negotiator on the protocol, said the UK’s plan to override parts of the post-Brexit trade deal ‘raises serious concerns’ .

He warned that if Boris Johnson goes ahead the EU will respond “with all measures at its disposal”.

Labor MP Hilary Benn, who is co-chair of the UK Trade and Business Affairs Committee, said unilateral action would not help Northern Ireland overcome its problems with the protocol.

Mr Benn added: “Breaking our international agreement with the EU will undermine trust and send a clear message to other trading partners around the world that the UK cannot stick to the deals we sign. It could also , if the EU takes action in response, mean higher costs for already cash-strapped UK businesses and individuals.

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