The Scottish Mail on Sunday
Britain wants ‘standstill’ to avoid Irish food chaos
THE row between the Government and the EU over supplies to Northern Ireland escalated last night as the UK called for a ‘standstill’ period to allow the controversial Brexit protocol governing the province to be renegotiated.
The protocol keeps the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic open, but checks must be made on goods from Britain.
Brexit Minister Lord Frost called for the standstill over fears of chaos when full checks on a number of products – such as sausages and other chilled meats – come into effect in October after so-called grace periods end. Last week, the chief executives of six of the UK’s largest food retailers said they may have to move supply chains from Britain to the EU if plans for trade with Northern Ireland were not reassessed.
Archie Norman, chairman of Marks & Spencer, said full checks risked becoming ‘incendiary’.
The request for a standstill was formally made by Lindsay Croisdale-Appleby, head of the UK Mission to the EU. He told the
Commission in a letter that it would be ‘a purely political understanding between us. This situation could always be ended by either side at will, preferably in a way which allows both sides time to prepare.
‘Meanwhile, the practical effect would be to ensure that the protocol is operated as now, without cliff edges, deadlines, or pressure points, while discussions are ongoing. We believe this would be helpful to enhancing trust and confidence between us’.
The letter also argued that the end of the grace periods would place an unacceptable burden on the UK food industry.
By the autumn, the paperwork demanded by the EU will rise to 120,000 pages a week – and an error in just one document means that lorries carrying hundreds of items would be turned back.
Last night, a senior Government source said: ‘We need to deal with the fundamental problems that have arisen since the start of the year.
‘We are asking for significant change, but changes that will build on the foundations and concepts of the existing protocol, and are intended to deliver on its core objectives in a way that works for the people and businesses of Northern Ireland.
‘A standstill is necessary to prevent the situation deteriorating further as grace periods end, but also to create the space to find durable arrangements.’
He added: ‘We need to move on from argument and mistrust, reset UK/EU relations and deliver for Northern Ireland for the long term.’