Brexit: EU relationship ‘more than bumpy’ since trade deal, says Lord Frost – BBC
- Lord David Frost said the relationship had been “more than bumpy” and more “problematic” than he had hoped. He told a committee the EU’s threat to increase controls on vaccine exports to Northern Ireland, as well as “niggling border issues”, were two examples.
- Lord Frost said the UK wanted “friendly cooperation between sovereign equals as our vision of the future”, but said: “I don’t think it has been quite the experience of the last few weeks, if we are honest about it.” He added: “I think the EU is still adjusting somewhat, as we thought they might, to the existence of a genuinely independent actor in their neighbourhood.”
- Speaking to a Lords committee on the EU, he said a threat from the EU to control vaccine exports to Northern Ireland – which was later revoked – had created “political difficulties… which played back into the broader relationship”.
- “I think it has been more than bumpy in the last six weeks, I think it has been problematic. “I hope we will get over this. It is going to require a different spirit, probably, from the EU, but I am sure we are going to see that and some of this subside as we go forward.”
EU to seek more time to ratify Brexit trade deal amid tensions with UK – The Guardian
- The European Union is expected to ask for more time to ratify the Brexit trade deal, the UK’s chief Brexit negotiator has said as he laid the blame for continuing UK-EU tensions at the door of Brussels.
- “We have heard informally from the commission today that we are likely to get a formal request to extend the two-month period that is in the treaty for ratification on the EU side,” Frost said. “We wait to see what that request constitutes and how long they wish to extend the process for. Obviously, it is a little disappointing given that we did discuss this only a month ago.”
- As well as news of the expected delay, Frost listed a series of “niggling border issues”, such as Brussels’ decision to place barriers on live UK shellfish exports. “I think it’s been more than bumpy to be honest in the last six weeks,” he said.
- Both Gove and Frost were forced to deny that the UK was engaged in a tit for tat struggle with the EU over the recognition of diplomatic representatives after a near-year-long row about the UK’s refusal to grant full diplomatic status of the EU mission to the UK. Frost accused the EU of placing restrictions on the operation of the UK’s ambassador in Brussels and his team.
- It emerged separately on Tuesday that Ireland and the EU Commission are meanwhile exploring ways to create an internal EU alert mechanism to protect the Northern Ireland protocol and avert repeats of the article 16 fiasco two weeks ago.
- Irish and commission officials were to meet on Tuesday to discuss mechanisms that will flag implications for Northern Ireland, intended or otherwise, in any future EU legislation, RTE reported.
EU to seek until April 30 to ratify Brexit deal – Reuters
- The European Union will ask Britain if it can take an extra two months to ratify the Brexit trade agreement by extending until April 30 provisional application of the deal.
- The European Commission, which has overseen the Brexit talks and is in charge of trade policy for the bloc, said it had adopted a proposal on Wednesday to seek the extension. Provisional application was to have lasted until the end of February.
- The Commission said the extension was required to ensure the agreement was available in all 24 EU languages for its scrutiny by the European Parliament and the grouping of EU governments called the European Council.
- Without an extension, the European Parliament plans to hold a special session at the end of February to vote on the agreement. The debates and opinions of committees on the topic indicate EU lawmakers would back the deal, even if they feel it is being rushed through.
Northern Ireland trade helpline criticised for failing on basic advice – FT
- A £355m government-funded support service designed to help British businesses deal with post-Brexit trading arrangements for Northern Ireland is failing to provide traders with basic answers to questions, MPs were told on Wednesday.
- The complaints from frontline users of the Trader Support Service (TSS) came as the UK and the EU prepared for critical talks on Thursday to resolve mounting issues with the Northern Irish Protocol that has caused growing political tensions.
- The British government is demanding that the EU extend grace periods designed to ease the implementation of the protocol, which Boris Johnson agreed as part of the Brexit withdrawal agreement.
- The deal requires all goods flowing from Great Britain to Northern Ireland to comply with onerous regulations under the EU customs code, creating a trade barrier down the Irish Sea that divides the UK internal market.
- Michael Gove, the Cabinet Office minister responsible for the protocol’s implementation, has demanded an “urgent reset” of the deal, including permanently reducing bureaucratic barriers hampering the movement of pets, plants and food products to Northern Ireland.
- Port and logistics operators told the Commons’ Northern Ireland Affairs Committee that the protocol had caused market distortions, lower trade volumes and service disruptions as traders struggled to deal with the additional red tape.
- Witnesses from the shipping and logistics industries backed Gove’s demands for more time, including extensions to grace periods, to adapt to rules which are due to come into full force on April 1. “What I see is huge market distortion currently taking place on a big, big scale,” said Ian Davies, the head of UK port authorities for Stena Line, adding that freight flows had halved from Holyhead to Dublin as supermarkets switched to Scottish routes.